My SXSW Film schedule has kept me moving around a lot more this year than usual. My first day involved a trip to Austin Convention Center for check-in, then to the Mondo Gallery for their Disney exhibition "Nothing's Impossible," back downtown for interviews with the cast of Premature, and then across the river to shoot red-carpet photos for Bad Words.
I thought it would be a good time to try out Car2Go, so I found one of their ubiquitous little cars and checked in for my very first trip. Unfortunately, I found out the hard way that when downtown during the fest, you can save a lot of money and shave off a lot of time by walking a couple of extra blocks instead of grabbing the nearest Car2Go. I managed to land in a one-way traffic hell as I was forced to circle the convention center garage in a trip that took over 30 minutes to move a single block. Otherwise, I found the Car2Go service was novel and would have been terrificly convenient under normal traffic circumstances.
My red carpet photos from Bad Words as well as those from "Nothing's Impossible" are already up on the Slackerwood Flickr along with additional sets from Joe (Nicolas Cage!) and the first film I saw, Space Station 76.
On the nights when mariachi groups amass on Mexico City's Plaza Garibaldi, playing for pesos and stirring the emotions of the crowds, there are a few female musicians in their midst. Prolific German filmmaker Doris Dorrie focuses on some of these women in her new documentary, Que Caramba es la Vida, premiering Tuesday at SXSW.
Filmed in eight weeks during 2012, the movie introduces the viewer to Maria del Carmen, a thirtysomething woman who financially supports her mother and daughter through her singing with an all-male mariachi troupe; Lupita, a young wife whose husband cares for their son the evenings and weekends she plays violin in a predominantly female troupe, Las Estrellas de Jalisco; and the older women of Las Pioneras de Mexico, some of whom were among the first female mariachis 50 years ago.
Almost exactly one year ago, I was standing at the intersection on Guadalupe Street outside of the Mondo Gallery, talking with folks who didn't let their all-nighter in line diminish their excitement for the newest Mondo show. Last year, it was all about Tyler Stout and Ken Taylor. This year, Mondo partnered with Disney's blog Oh My Disney to create the same fervor.
Aptly named "Nothing's Impossible," the exhibit drew fans from all over the country, who lined up at the gallery as early as 48 hours before the doors opened. Distance, time and weather could not stand in the way of Mondo's loyal fans. When checking in with the line-dwellers an hour before launch, I heard, "Things are getting exciting. We're all standing now!" The wall of folding chairs and sleeping bags were gone, and if you didn't know better you'd have thought the queue had just formed.
Like Caitlin, I wanted to skip downtown the first night of the SXSW Film Fest and keep the night low-key. A friend and I met at the Marchesa to check out Texas Shorts, and we stuck around for the Austin premiere of Ping Pong Summer. Well, at least that was the plan.
Michael Tully's '80s-tastic movie had a full house waiting for the film to start at 9:30 pm. We were told there would be a delay because of projection issues. A few people left, but most stuck around as Tully endeared himself to the audience with his self-deprecating humor. Debbie, also in attendance, introduced me to some local film folks as people chatted in their seats. Some time later (and some beers later), it was announced that the Marchesa's digital projector was not going to be working at all that night.*
Any documentary filmmaker will tell you that the process to make a film takes time. Filmmaker Gabe Klinger will tell you that the idea for his SXSW premiere film, Double Play: James Benning and Richard Linklater, was an idea that had been with him for many years.
Double Play examines the friendship between filmmakers James Benning and Richard Linklater. Klinger teamed up with local production company The Bear Media as well as the Austin Film Society to help bring this film to life. Through scenes filmed at Linklater's Bastrop home as well as archival footage, we as the audience can quietly observe these artists discussing their lives, art, and what it means to be a filmmaker.
I got the chance to ask Klinger a few questions via email before the film's debut this weekend. See what he has to say about how he approached these two filmmakers, as well as what his influences were in the process.
-- James Hand in Thank You a Lot, when asked what makes a good songwriter
In a single word, the fictional musician James Hand -- played by the real musician James Hand -- sums up a central theme of Thank You a Lot.
The poignant and perceptive film by Austin filmmaker Matt Muir explores many forms of failure: in parenthood, family relationships and artistic fulfillment. But it's also a hopeful film about redemption.
At the center of Thank You a Lot is Jack Hand (Blake DeLong), a bottom-feeding hustler and music manager whose only remaining clients are the hapless indie rock band The Wintermen and struggling hip-hop artist Desmond D (Jeffery Da'Shade Johnson). Jack spends his days trolling Austin's music scene for any deal he can work to his advantage; petty fraud and extortion are his stock in trade, and it's obvious his ethical compass broke long ago.
Here are a few tips for managing your SXSW 2014 Film schedule:
- Keep track of your schedule through SXSocial.
- You can add films from the film conference schedule by clicking the star icon next to any title.
- You can also click any title for an expanded description, and then click More Details for the full page, which includes an Add to my schedule button and alternate showtimes on the lower right.
- After you have added selections to your schedule, the My Schedule link will show you your schedule day-by-day.
- Start by scheduling films that only have one screening time.
- After those are set, look for shows you want to see that are in the same theater that day. This will keep your travel needs to a minimum.
- If you do schedule shows back to back that are in different locations, keep in mind the travel time between them.
- If two or more shows you want to see happen at the same time, add both to your schedule so you have an alternate in case your first pick is full.
After a painless badge pickup experience on Thursday (always go on Thursday if you can), I started my Friday fully ready for the festival to get going.
As someone who works downtown, I’ve been witnessing the even more chaotic than usual scene all week -- tons of traffic (due to construction, delivery trucks, extra people, etc.) and the transformation of every empty parking lot and building into some kind of brand platform or other.
This state of affairs helped me make my decision to follow my usual tradition of skipping the opening-night film at the Paramount (no offense to Jon Favreau) to check out something I didn't know much about.
The choice I made, She's Lost Control, is one I'd only heard a little about following its Berlin Film Festival premiere last month. An intense and dark slice of life, the film focuses on a woman who works as a sex surrogate while she finishes a psychology Master's degree in New York City.
Often hard-hitting and true but sometimes a little frustrating, I can't fully call this a "must-see" but I know this movie will definitely stick with me (and that sense of emotional discovery is what film festivals are all about).
With a full Saturday ahead of me (I'm taking the bus downtown and will be around all day), I made my exit after the film ended.
Eight years after Zack Snyder revived the sword-and-sandal subgenre and inspired millions of men to revisit the gym with his adaptation of Frank Miller's 300, he has scripted a return to ancient Greece. Directed by Noam Murro (Smart People), the movie 300: Rise of an Empire is a self-indulgent video game fantasy at best.
The film opens with a recap of the events of 300 and an introduction to Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), the new lead, who's head of the Greek army. The action proceeds to explain how Themistokles is not just the hero who led the Greeks to victory over Xerxes, but was himself responsible for the enmity held by Xerxes toward the Greeks.
Artemisia (Eva Green) is introduced as the leader of Xerxes' forces, and the two commence with a series of battles consisting of ships crashing into each other as warriors fight to the death on top of the sinking wrecks.
Here are the rules of Greek vs. Persian combat, as gleaned from 300: Rise of an Empire:
- Rule 1: Like a friendly game of football, bad guys wear shirts, good guys are skins.
- Rule 2: Every blow of every sword in every battle must be repeated in videogame style slo-mo.
- Rule 3: Every scene with any of the Greek army present must have floating sparks constantly distracting from the action on the camera, as if from 10,000 campfires, even when the entire army is climbing wet out of the Mediterranean.
- Rule 4: If it digitally bleeds, it digitally leads.
- Rule 5: Nobody important dies without an extended death scene in which they deliver a monologue. Everyone else dies immediately upon the slightest injury.
Specialty screenings are pretty much off the radar for the next two weekends because the SXSW Film Festival is taking over many of Austin's best venues. If you aren't headed out to the festival, there are still a few free community screenings that are part of SXSW. Most of them are taking place at the Marchesa, including the AFS ShortCase on Saturday afternoon. Programmed by the Austin Film Society, ShortCase is a program of short films created by AFS members and curated by a jury that includes filmmaker Clay Liford, Slackerwood's own Debbie Cerda and Lars Nilsen from AFS.
Aside from that, if you didn't pick up a SXSW badge or wristband, you'll very likely be able to buy your way into some of the encore screenings by the end of the week after the music portion of the festival gets started and the movies slow down a bit. Check out Caitlin's post for more tips on how to make the most of the festival as a local film fan.
It's also worth noting that Lars Von Trier's controversial film Nymphomaniac, Volume 1 has just been released as a pre-theatrical VOD title. Available from most cable operators, it's also available digitally to rent from Amazon Instant Video, the Playstation Store, Xbox Marketplace and YouTube. Due to its explicit sexual content, the film is not available from iTunes or Vudu. I've confirmed with Magnolia Pictures that the VOD version is exactly the same as what is being released theatrically and is not censored. For those who would rather take it all in (so to speak) on the big screen, it opens locally March 28 at the Alamo Drafthouse Slaughter Lane and Violet Crown Cinema. Volume 2 will follow in April.