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Insider's Guide: Surviving SXSW 2012

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Super Woman Sneaks by Carla Jackson of A Swingin' Trio, AFF 2011.Welcome to the third annual edition of the Slackerwood SXSW Survival Guide. This time we've taken more of a mix-tape approach to our tips. You could always make a playlist of the bolded tips and listen to them as you work on your schedule.

Here are some of our tried-and-true tips for making the most of SXSW Film Festival as well as Austin. Keep an eye out for our Dining Guide, and some tips from the filmmaker community, in the next week.

In These Shoes?
You may be tempted to dress to impress, but those smokin' new shoes could leave you with major blisters, not to mention very sore feet. Go for comfort, not speed, unless you happen to score a pair of shiny gold hightops that do both (I’m looking at you, Carla Jackson, when you rocked a sassy full-length gown and "Super Woman Sneaks" at AFF 2011 for A Swingin' Trio's premiere).

Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen).
Austin in March averages 50-70 degree F temps, but they can dip into the 30s and soar into the 90s. Those shorts may result in freeze burn after a particularly long screening. Keep an eye on the weather but remember it can change very quickly, so plan on layers. And do not forget that sunscreen, regardless of cloud cover.

Traveling Light.
I don't mean your luggage limit on the plane, but your daily festival burden. A backpack or totebag can help you get through each SXSW day, but remember you may have that with you all day, especially if you aren't staying at a downtown hotel or have a conveniently parked car nearby. Trial sizes are your friends.

Slackerwood contributor Rod Paddock adds this advice: "If you plan on carrying a laptop to SXSW, don't! That extra 7-10 lbs will kill your back and you probably won't use it. I recommend using an iPad (or other tablet device). I use Pages on my iPad to do my writing. You would be surprised how useful they are when you try."

SXSW 2012: Jonathan Lisecki, 'Gayby'

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Jenn Harris, Jonathan Lisecki and Matthew Wilkas of Gayby

Jonathan Lisecki's movie Gayby is making its world premiere at SXSW; it's a feature that expands the story from his short film of the same name. Lisecki's past work includes the 2008 Spirit of Slamdance Award-winning Woman in Burka, and you might remember him as the coach in Clay Liford's film Wuss from SXSW 2011. Austin filmmaker Liford was Director of Photography on Gayby, so you know it's going to look good; when you read the premise, you can be pretty sure it's one of the more memorable plots in an already edgy fest lineup.

Slackerwood: Describe your film for us in a couple of sentences.
Jonathan Lisecki: Gayby is an outrageous comedy about a straight girl and her gay best friend trying to have a baby. Insanely awkward sex scenes and vast complications ensue.

What’s one thing about the film that is going to make it impossible for people to resist seeing it?
Who doesn't love weird and silly sex, and we have that for sure. A woman I know who programs for another festival saw an early cut and said it had the funniest sex scene she had seen all year. This is someone who watches hundreds of films, so she knows of what she speaks. But after the aforementioned insanely awkward sex scene there is another one that takes it to a whole different level. Come for the sex, stay for the laughs. That's how most of my relationships have gone, now that I think of it.  

Austin at SXSW 2012: Ben Steinbauer, 'Brute Force'

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Ben Steinbauer and Stephen Friedland from 'Brute Force'

Say what? You don't recognize the name Ben Steinbauer? Perhaps you remember the hit documentary Winnebago Man, which wowed crowds at film festivals everywhere it played, including SXSW 2009. In 2010, the Austin Film Critics Association awarded it Best Austin Film. This time around, Steinbauer brings a documentary short about Stephen Friedland called Brute Force to SXSW 2012.

Slackerwood: Describe your film for us in a couple of sentences.
Steinbauer: Brute Force is the story of Apple Records recording artist Stephen Friedland, who in 1969 released the song "King of Fuh" that became the most controversial single Apple ever recorded.

What's one thing about the film that is going to make it impossible for people to resist seeing it?
The relationship between Stephen, aka "Brute Force," who is now in his seventies, and his daughter Lilah, aka "Daughter of Force," is funny, charming and endlessly relatable. It will appeal to anyone who has a complicated relationship to their parents (who doesn't?)

Movies This Week: Rampart Act of Wanderlust Deeds

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Good Deeds

Normally we focus on Austin theaters for Movies This Week, but we're more than willing to go a little north of town to Pflugerville for Cinemark's Best Shorts Festival 2012, for three screenings only up at Tinseltown 20. On Monday, the Texas Film Hall of Fame presents No Country for Old Men at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar -- the cast includes Barry Corbin, who will be honored at the award ceremony next month.

Wednesday you have three (count 'em!) very different cinematic experiences to choose from. Cine Las Americas is hosting a benefit sneak preview of Oscar-nominated Chico & Rita, a contender for Best Animated Feature, at the Metropolitan. AFS Best of the Fests screens SXSW 2011 selection Better This World at Alamo Village with special guests David McKay and Bradley Crowder, the two young men from Midland, Texas who were arrested on terrorism charges at the 2008 Republican National Convention.  And the Paramount Pub Run series is screening Back to the Future if you're looking for something less provocative; you don't have to participate in the pub run part, but that ticket includes beer and other goodies. Decisions, decisions.

Movies We've Seen:

Comin' At Ya! -- This restored 1981 film may not be for everyone, but apparently is the ultimate 3D experience.  Me, I'm intrigued by the fact that one of its stars is Victoria Abril, who costarred with Penelope Cruz in Don't Tempt Me in 2001. Jette saw it at Fantastic Fest and says, "The 3D effects are wonderfully cheesy and eye-popping ... I wish the story had been more engaging. Worth it for the goofy 3D factor."  (Alamo Lamar, Village, Lake Creek)

Rampart -- If you're a fan of dirty cop movies, or Woody Harrelson, this is the film for you. Think The Shield, but less so.  On the other hand, Mike says it "attempts to do with the LAPD what The Wrestler did with wrestling, only poorly. This is not a happy story, and unfortunately it's also not dramatic, funny, gripping, engaging, or even vaguely interesting. Only a week later, and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance has competition for worst film I've seen this year." Full details in his review this weekend. (Alamo Lamar, Tinseltown 17)

Wanderlust -- David Wain's latest features Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston as a down-on-their-luck couple who end up at a commune and not a B&B as they travel cross country. Look for J.C.'s review this weekend. He says, "There's a lot for fans of David Wain fans to like in Wanderlust, general audiences might be in for a bit of a surprise though." (wide)

Movies This Week: Land of Secret Bullhead War

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The Secret World of Arrietty

The Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards is gearing up with a special screening of Infamous on Monday night at Alamo Drafthouse Lamar. It's directed by Douglas McGrath, one of this year's Hall of Fame honorees. If you haven't seen this movie because you saw the "other" Capote movie, check it out. Toby Jones is fantastic as Truman Capote, and Sandra Bullock isn't bad herself.

Did you miss Slacker 2011? Texas Independent Film Network is screening the film (Don's review) at Violet Crown on Tuesday. In addition, the provocative documentary Incendiary: The Willingham Case (Jenn's review) is having a DVD release party and special screening with filmmakers Joe Bailey Jr. and Steve Mims, on Wednesday at Violet Crown -- buy a ticket to the screening and get a discount on the DVD as well as a movie poster. A reception for the movie starts at 6 pm and the movie screens at 7 pm.

Bullhead -- This Belgian nominee for a Best Foreign Film Oscar has already had several local screenings -- Drafthouse Films is its distributor -- but now the Fantastic Fest fave is officially in limited release in Austin, LA and NY, and expanding next week. Don says Bullhead is "extraordinarily intense, a gripping and often unpleasant tale of organized crime." Read Don's review and Debbie's Fantastic Fest review for more.  (Alamo Lamar, Alamo Village, Alamo Lake Creek)

Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance -- Nicolas Cage is back as Johnny Blaze. Do I really need to explain the motorcycle or the fiery whip? Mike saw the movie at Butt-Numb-a-Thon and says, "Nicolas Cage turns his insanity up to 11 in the sequel to Ghost Rider, a string of over-the-top action sequences by the makers of Crank 2 with no recognizable story connecting them together. This is in the running for my worst movie of the year." (wide)

This Means War -- A "spy versus spy" rom-com couldn't get a better cast with Tom Hardy and Chris Pine as best friends battling for the heart of Reese Witherspoon. Mike says in his review, "Some of the dialogue is quite witty... this was a fun escape from reality for a couple of hours. Not too serious, not too silly." (wide)

Movies This Week: A Star Pina Separation House Vow

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A Separation

On Saturday night, Blue Starlite is screening a Woody Allen double feature: Annie Hall and Sleeper. Next week, the Big Screen Classics series at the Alamo Drafthouse is pulling out the stops with what's considered one of the most romantic classic movies ever -- Gone with the Wind. You can catch it Monday through Thursday up at Alamo Village.

If you're looking for something a little different, then head over to the Alamo Ritz on Monday for a special screening of Best in Show complete with all-you-can-eat hot dogs. APL's Weeknight Cinema series is playing A.I. Artificial Intelligence at Milwood Branch on Tuesday if you're looking for something a little less romantic. Or you could trek out to Round Rock, where Flix Brewhouse has picked two "romantic" (with the air quotes) movies to show on Feb. 14: War of the Roses and True Romance.

Movies We've Seen:

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island -- It's telling that the big-name star of the first film didn't sign on for this sequel. Mike braved the film and says it's "a story so inept it appears to have been written by members of its target 13-year-old audience." Read his review for more.  (wide)

Pina -- Wim Wenders' 3D documentary of choreographer Pina Bausch, whose work was so influential she inspired Pedro Almodóvar to make Talk to Her. Don says in his review that the film gave him "a newfound appreciation and understanding of modern dance." (Violet Crown)

Movies This Week: Big Kevin Chronicle Innkeepers in Black

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The Innkeepers

The KLRU co-sponsored Community Cinema Series at APL Windsor Park Branch is showing More Than A Month on Tuesday. This free series features light refreshments and post-film discussions with relevant organizations. But if you're looking for some classic sci-fi, you can see Blade Runner for free over at the APL Milwood Branch

Normally we keep Movies This Week focused on what's playing in the coming week, but since that dreaded sappy holiday is nearly upon us, I thought I should mention that the Blue Starlite Drive-In is showing a special double feature of The Princess Bride and Breakfast at Tiffany's -- and if you're at all inclined to do something on Valentine's Day and see a movie, you might want to book your reservation now. Especially since the highlight of Alamo Drafthouse's romantic fare for Feb. 14 -- also The Princess Bride, with a quote-along/feast -- unsurprisingly sold out  already (there are non-feast versions later that week).

Movies We've Seen:

We Need to Talk About Kevin -- Bleak and relentless and starring the always-mesmerizing Tilda Swinton, one of the few actors out there who can deliver a provocative performance that's equally sympathetic and repulsive, although as Elizabeth points out, "The viewer has to piece together why she's now living alone in a town full of people who detest her so strongly."  Read Elizabeth's review for more. (Alamo Lamar, Arbor)

The Woman in Black -- Life after Harry Potter for Daniel Radcliffe includes the legend of a vengeful spirit terrorizing a remote village. Debbie found that Radcliffe's omnipresence left her "a bit de-sensitized." Read Debbie's review for more. (wide)

Movies This Week: One Grey Albert Ledge

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The Grey

Busy tonight? Blue Starlite Urban Drive-In has a triple-feature of 80s teen films for you: Pretty in Pink, Say Anything and Sixteen Candles.

On Sunday, you can join the TXMPA SAG Awards party, including a red carpet and pre-show mixer at ND at 501 Studios. On Monday, if you think "the Dude abides" you can check out the Big Lebowski Quote-along at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar.

Then on Tuesday, you can catch a classic cautionary tale of love, lust and the consequences of confusing the two in F.W. Murnau's 1927 epic Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans as part of the AFS Essential Cinema Series. And the Paramount Winter Comedy Series continues this week, including a special Shaun of the Dead Pub Run and screening on Tuesday.

Finally, we hear there's going to be a fabulous happy hour on Wednesday night to celebrate, oh, what is it again? That's right ... this piece of news.

Movies We've Seen:

Albert Nobbs -- One of my favorite films of 2012 also managed to snag three Oscar nominations. Debbie says in her review, "The story is rather engaging and overall well paced." (Arbor)

Man on a Ledge -- J.C. saw this thriller and says it's a combination of "some original thought, mixed in with some fun clichés that will only serve to give you a harmless chuckle." Read his review for more. (wide)

Movies This Week: Incredibly Red Underworld Haywire

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Soyuz Meal

On Sunday, the America's Future Scientist Fund is hosting a Jamboree over at the Stunt Ranch and Fire Lake Event Center. How is this related to film? One of the first activities is "Science in the Movies." What better way to spend your day, especially with kids?

Austin Film Society kicks off this year's Texas Independent Film Network Presents program on Tuesday, and celebrates Austin filmmaker Heather Courtney's Independent Spirit Truer Than Fiction Award, with a special screening of Where Soldiers Come From with Courtney in attendance at Violet Crown. I cannot recommend this movie enough.

The Paramount Winter Comedy Series will screen double features Jan. 22-27 with Will Ferrell, Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor movies as well as Mike Judge's Austin film classic Office Space on Thursday. Anyone else missing the Alligator Grill?

Movies We've Seen:

Bullhead -- This Fantastic Fest favorite returns to Austin for a couple of weekend screenings to celebrate its being included on the Oscar shortlist competing for nominations for Best Foreign Language Film. Debbie says, "What starts out as a movie about the mafia behind illegal bovine hormone use and trading in the Belgian agricultural industry turns into an intensive character study." Read her review for more. (Alamo Drafthouse Lamar)

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close -- This movie has an excessively melodramatic lead and seems even longer than the title. While I found that ultimately I appreciated it in the end, I completely agree with Elizabeth who says in her review that she "can't recall the last time I've been so annoyed by a child actor." Ultimately, however, I found this dramatization of the grieving process to be profoundly moving. (wide)

Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission (pictured above) -- A 2008 spaceflight, a SXSW 2010 hit, made by local filmmakers about a local celebrity, finally screening at a theater near you. Debbie says the documentary "reiterates the immeasurable value of space travel and how private industry can further the benefits of space exploration and the accomplishments of scientific research in zero gravity conditions." Read her review for more.  (Alamo Lamar)

Movies This Week: Joyful Iron Contraband Pariah Carnage

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Carnage, Sony Pictures Classics

Along with a number of new-to-Austin movies in theaters this week, on Sunday you can see The Best Damned Shorts Show over at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz that showcases local filmmakers and includes a Q&A. In addition, Alamo is teaming up with Lights. Camera. Help., the festival for films about nonprofits, for the Reel Change Film Frenzy this weekend. Ten nonprofit groups are teaming up with ten film crews for a weekend film challenge, and you can watch the resulting shorts on Sunday night at Alamo on South Lamar.

On Monday night, you can catch a sneak preview of Steven Soderbergh's movie Haywire at Alamo Village and support Texas film, since ticket proceeds benefit the 2012 Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund. And on Wednesday, also at Village, AFS Doc Nights screens Jennifer Fox's My Reincarnation, about Buddhist spiritual scholar/teacher Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche.

Movies We've Seen:

Carnage (pictured at top) -- Two sets of parents meet for what was intended to be a cordial meeting about their kids but unsurprisingly, it doesn't remain that way. Jette says in her review that she "could see the interactions between these couples could get overly dramatic and even ugly, but I had no idea it would be so damned funny." (Regal Arbor, Violet Crown, Cinemark Tinseltown, Regal Metropolitan)

The Divide -- This apocalyptic SXSW 2011 selection starts off with a very impressive bang in the opening scenes, but quickly dissolves into a grisly mess as a group of survivors struggles with their own humanity. Or not. Rod saw it and in his review, says it "has a definite edge to it and I appreciated it." (Alamo Lamar)

Joyful Noise -- Competitive choirs are not exactly a new comedy concept, and this time it takes two leads (Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah). Are there any saving graces? Mike says yes in his review -- he found it "a family-friendly comedy in the same vein as Footloose with a wholesome message that doesn't get in the way of the fun." (wide)

Pariah -- As a teenager struggles to come of age, the pressure mounts for her to be what's expected, not what she is. Don says in his review, "It's entirely authentic, a vibrant and moving coming of age story." (Regal Arbor)

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