SXSW Film Festival has just announced the last round of features included in the 2011 festival, in the Midnighters and SXFantastic categories. "SXFantastic" is a joint venture between SXSW and Fantastic Fest, and the films generally screen at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, often with wacky hijinks from the Alamo gang. In addition, SXSW has also announced its substantial short film lineup, including narratives, documentaries, animation and music videos. One category is dedicated to Texas shorts, which is great to see.
You can see the full lineup here. Although none of the new features are Austin movies as far as I can tell -- in fact, few are American -- we'll post an article soon with details on the Austin-connected shorts. In the meantime, here are a few highlights and notes on Austin connections, no matter how tenuous. The actual schedule for SXSW Film should be announced within another week or so, along with info on film passes and other details.
- Hobo with a Shotgun is about as close to being an Austin film as a movie shot in Nova Scotia by a Canadian can possibly be -- I explained why when the film officially premiered at Sundance. I hope to see this but it's a midnight movie and you all know how wussy I am about seeing movies at that hour (the last SXSW film I stayed up that late to see was Drag Me to Hell).
- British filmmaker Simon Rumley was at SXSW 2010 with his Austin-shot horror film, Red White & Blue. This year, he's back as one of the writer/directors of a horror anthology from the UK, Little Deaths. Rumley's segment is called "Bitch" and is about a couple in a destructive sadomasochistic relationship. (Horror Asylum has a poster and longer synopsis of Rumley's segment.)
The SXSW Film Festival always has a great showing of documentaries and narrative shorts and features from Austin filmmakers. A number of films are also shot in the Central Texas area. It's starting to feel like it wouldn't really be SXSW without a shot of the Frost Bank Building in at least one movie. Austin films aren't merely limited to the Lone Star States category, either -- you can find them in many of the fest's offerings.
Here's the best list we've been able to compile of Austin connections in SXSW films this year. If we missed your film, please let us know in the comments. We will update the list if needed when the SXFantastic and Midnighters films are announced this week. We'll also do a separate article for short films after they are announced.
A note to filmmakers: If your movie has some link to Austin, we would love to interview you about it and see the film. Please drop us a line ASAP so we can set something up before the fest begins.
Remember Clay? Last year at SXSW, My Blackberry Ate My Clay Liford Interview when I talked with him and producer Barak Epstein about Clay's cerebral science-fiction genre-crossing movie Earthling, and touched briefly on his 2008 short My Mom Smokes Weed. The man is batting a thousand -- getting two features into SXSW two years in a row is no mean feat. He spent a Sunday brunch at Olivia a couple of weeks ago chatting with Jette and me about his latest projects -- we all ate smoked gouda grits, and the Blackberry did not eat the interview this time.
As it happens, My Mom Smokes Weed star Nate Rubin plays the lead in Wuss. Rubin stars as Mitch, a high-school teacher who can't seem to escape the fate of the eponymous archetype the title implies, being repeatedly bullied by his own students until an unlikely alliance results in a "friendship that stretches the use of the word 'inappropriate'." Wuss also stars Tony Hale (Arrested Development, Chuck) and local actor/filmmaker Alex Karpovsky (Lovers of Hate, Tiny Furniture) among others.
SXSW Film Festival has just announced its 2011 lineup. We'll post a complete (we hope) list of all the Austin and Texas connections very soon, but in the meantime, you can read the full announcement here. The short films, midnight movies and SXFantastic films will be revealed next week, and the full panel/conference lineup on Feb. 15. SXSW Film Festival takes place from March 11-19 this year.
Immediately obvious Austin films: Heather Courtney's Where Soldiers Come From, in the documentary competition; Aaron Burns' blacktino, produced by Elizabeth Avellan and with a cast including Danny Trejo and Jeff Fahey; Turk Pipkin's latest film Building Hope; Steve Mims' documentary Incendiary: The Willingham Case; and hey! Emily Hagins' My Sucky Teen Romance. Quite pleased to see Clay Liford's feature Wuss included too, since Jenn Brown just interviewed him; look for us to publish that very soon.
More quick notes: Outside Industry: The Story of SXSW, directed by Alan Berg, is in the music section of the fest; Being Elmo, about the little red menace of Sesame Street, will screen after a successful debut at Sundance (how I'd love to interview either Kevin Clash or Elmo himself); Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams in 3D; Monte Hellman's Road to Nowhere; Errol Morris's Tabloid.
Sebastian Gutierrez, who entertained a SXSW 2010 audience memorably after his print of Elektra Luxx broke, is back with Girl Walks Into a Bar; Greta Gerwig also returns to the fest, starring in Alison Bagnall's film The Dish & the Spoon. Nicolas Lopez, so charming at Fantastic Fest 2008 with his film Santos (produced by Avellan) is at SXSW with the U.S. premiere of Fuck My Life. Catherine Hardwicke will host a special screening of her latest film, Red Riding Hood. And The Cameraman with live accompaniment. And ... and ... and ...
Austin fans of actor Edward Norton (Fight Club, American History X) will be able to get a double -- or should I say triple -- dose of him this weekend with two major film events. Norton will be in town for the premiere of Stone at Fantastic Fest on Friday, September 24 at 7 pm -- a gala screening at the Paramount Theatre. He'll also be at Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz for the sold-out 8 pm showing of Leaves of Grass, which opens in Austin this weekend.
Don't assume Leaves of Grass is a "stoner comedy," as I almost did. This movie defies typecasting into one genre, as it ranges from comedy to drama to thriller. Norton stars as twin brothers -- Bill, a straight-laced Ivy League professor; and Brady, an uncultured pot grower in the backwoods of Oklahoma. Actor and director Tim Blake Nelson also wrote the screenplay, which is centered more around classical tragic themes in such a manner that viewers won't take long to forget that the characters are played by the same actor.
I sat down with several other film critics during SXSW this past March for a roundtable discussion with Norton and Nelson the day after Leaves of Grass played the fest. To find out why Nelson has inspired me to read classic Latin literature, read his and Norton's responses to our questions after the jump, and check out my review of the film appearing later this week:
I thoroughly enjoy interviewing filmmakers and actors, but I was particularly enlightened by Austin video game developer and recent astronaut Richard Garriott during our podcast interview about the documentary Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission, specifically regarding his motivation. I asked Garriott what science-fiction authors had inspired him in his youth, to want to travel to space. The answer? None -- he read fantasy, hence the inspiration for his first game, Ultima.
For Garriott, space travel wasn't anything out of the ordinary. His father Owen Garriott was an astronaut, and all of their neighbors were in the NASA space program as well. It wasn't until Garriott was older that he discovered that not everyone goes to space, and his poor eyesight would prevent him from being a part of the NASA space program. He was determined to find a way to travel to space, and in 2008 it became reality as he joined a Soyuz mission into space.
If you didn't get a chance to see Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission during SXSW 2010, be sure to catch an encore screening at Fantastic Fest, which begins next Thursday. Screenings will be announced here.
When it comes to contemporary scary tales, most films resort to fantastic gorefests and extremism to provoke reactions from the audience. Thankfully, The Last Exorcism rarely resorts to such cliched convention.
Shot in documentary style, the subject is Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian), a reforming evangelist who's out to prove how believers can be convinced that demonic possessions and exorcisms are faked to exploit them. Cotton is arrogantly charming, fully aware of his power to persuade, and how that factors into his ability to hoodwink the faithful. When he randomly selects a request to perform an exorcism to expose the trickery behind them, he and the documentary crew are off to rural Louisiana to answer a desperate farmer's pleas. Unfortunately for Cotton, he is asked by a desperate father to perform an exorcism he never wants to do; one on a child.
The acting in The Last Exorcism is outstanding, starting with Fabian (Big Love) as Cotton, whose glee at revealing his tricks could have been annoying, if it wasn't clear his goal is to help people. Ashley Bell, Caleb Landry Jones and Louis Herthum as the Sweetzers all seem straight off the farm, with homespun earnestness and love for their family that expresses itself in different ways for each character.
Robert Duvall returns to the big screen in Get Low, a tale of intentions, reputations and secrets too powerful to remain kept in a Depression-era small town.
When recluse Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) comes to town, tongues wag, conjuring up nearly unspeakable tales, each one worse than the last. Rumors range from strange powers to cold-blooded murder, and he's become such a frightful figure that he's the bogeyman children scare themselves with, as they wonder just what the old man does on his land so far from town. Townsfolk are shocked when he shows up in down in his mule-drawn wagon at a time when cars are taking over the road. Felix is planning for a funeral. But not just any funeral, a living one -- where anyone and everyone who has a story about him will come and tell it to the rest of the gathers and Felix himself.
Local funeral-home owner Frank Quinn (Bill Murray) is more than willing to take Bush's money and sets his assistant Buddy (Lucas Black) to ensure a tidy profit. But what seems an eccentric wish turns into a mystery: Why has Bush isolated himself all these years, and what is his relationship with Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek), recently returned to town? As the funeral party plans evolve, the mystery deepens, as Felix clearly has an agenda revolving around his past secrets.
While checking out photos from the red carpet events across the globe for The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, I was struck by how photogenic co-star Ashley Greene is. Her natural grace and beauty stands out on the red carpet -- but perhaps I'm biased since I was able to get some great shots of Greene and the rest of the cast during the Skateland premiere at SXSW this year, like the one above.
It has to be no easy feat with the pandemonium that follows The Twilight Saga stars Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning, as I experienced at The Runaways premiere. Stewart seemed quite withdrawn at the SXSW event both on the red carpet and onstage for the Q&A. I dismissed it as the effect of a rigorous press junket, but according to this NY Daily News article, Stewart is quite uncomfortable and fearful during large events. That would definitely explain why she spent most of the Q&A crouched down on the stage.
It doesn't seem that long since my SXSW Film 2010 wrap-up, but SXSW staff are already preparing for 2011. The SXSW PanelPicker went live today, and you can add your ideas here for next year's Film, Interactive and Music conferences.
Per the PanelPicker press release, the SXSW Film Conference is "most interested in proposals geared towards creating, marketing, and finding audiences for films in this new digital age, as well as hands-on workshop ideas."
I really enjoyed this year's "How to Rawk SXSW Film," moderated by Agnes Varnum of Austin Film Society. Questions from the audience included where attendees could find screenwriting tips -- not in panels, but mentor sessions are good places -- to how and where to meet with Interactive Conference attendees. I recommended the "crossover" panels and special events as good locations to intermingle.
SXSW welcomes crossover panels, which focus on the areas where film, music, and interactive meet. Bear that in mind when you're planning to submit panel ideas for 2011. I mentioned some of these panels in my "SXSW 2010 Guide: Balancing Film and Interactive," but how cool would it be to have a film and music panel about film scores from local composers Graham Reynolds, who scored The Lost World screening at SXSW 2010, and/or Brian Satterwhite (Artois the Goat, Man on a Mission)?