Jenn Brown's blog

SXSW Day 6: Drive-By Reviews


The Least of These

I've commented on the sense of community I see at SXSW, and today proved it. I caught up with some friends I've made at Austin fests like SXSW and Fantastic Fest, and made some new ones, including a relatively random one who gave me a ride home after my last film, not to mention getting into datapop party, which was very fun.

The Least of These (Lone Star States)
Directors: Jesse Lyda, Clark Lyda
I knew very little about the T. Don Hutto family detention center in Taylor, Texas in Williamson County, but now that I do, I'm quite disturbed that it even exists. The privatization of the penal system bled into illegal alien detention, including children who's only crime is having parents who wanted better lives for their children. The cavalier corporate attitude towards detention is challenged by civil rights activists and media outlets alike. This deserves a much longer review, which we'll do later. In the meantime, it's playing again at 11 am on Friday at the Paramount, so if you're in town, go see it.

SXSW Day 5: Drive-By Reviews


Less and less sleep, more and more people to keep in touch with. Oh, and if you don't know, the Alamo brunch menu is indeed available during the entire film festival run. SXSW is more than just conference panels and screenings, it's about community.

St. Nick (Emerging Visions)
Director/Writer: David Lowery
Shot in Forth Worth, this definitely had a Texas look. With very little dialogue, a lot is conveyed, as two youngsters turn an abandoned house into their home. Ultimately, the conclusion didn't work for me, but I'm open to persuasion.

SXSW Day 4: Drive-By Reviews


The Overbrook Brothers

I never made it to the Trade Show, but for once I got in a full day's worth of movies, most of which were well worth it, and with a lot of Austin connections. The programming this year continues to be solid.

Me and Orson Welles
Director: Richard Linklater. Writers: Holly Gent Palmo and Vincent Palmo Jr. (screenplay), Robert Kaplow (novel)
SXSW loves Linklater, and rightly so; he embodies the independent spirit that's rampant at the festival, and is not only a filmmaker, but supports the film community very strongly, especially the Austin community. So it's no surprise his films get special screenings. Me and Orson Welles is a period piece and focuses on theatre, which means it won't likely find a large audience, but should be seen for the eerily outstanding performance by Christian McKay, who has a striking resemblance to Orson Welles, and captured the spirit of the high strung genius in his early days.

SXSW Day 3: Drive-By Reviews



Days are already running into each other, and it's only day three.

American Violet (Lone Star States)
Director: Tim Disney. Writer: Bill Haney
It's an old story; wrongfully charged, someone fights back. What makes a film like this work is the performances, and Nicole Beharie delivers a memorable one as single mother wrongly charged with a felony drug offense. Actually, most of the performances were very strong. While the story itself is fiction, it puts faces to the very real phenomenon of aggressive police action. I just wish they'd shot in a Texas location, since the cases it's based on took place in the Waco area. I highly recommend it, if only for watching Beharie, particularly when she has battles of will with Alfre Woodard, who plays her mother.

SXSW Day 2: Drive-By Reviews


Make-Out with Violence

It's only day two and I'm losing track of myself already. I only saw three films today, when I could have seen six. But I think catching a bit of Jeffrey Tambor's acting workshop, as well as all of the film critic panel makes up for it. There's a lot of diversity in the panels this year.

Objectified (Spotlight Premieres)
Director: Gary Hustwit
I was a big fan of Hustwit's Helvetica. However, his follow up was like Helvetica Lite. I was hoping for a more in-depth look at product design history, not just who are the big contemporary designers. Still worth catching, though fans of Helvetica are likely to be disappointed. I kept dozing off, when I wanted to be interested.

SXSW Day 1: Drive-By Reviews



Despite the chill and the rain, filmgoers seemed to be out in force for the first day of SXSW film festival.

The Square (Spotlight Premieres)
Director: Nash Edgerton. Writers: Joel Edgerton and Matthew Dabnet
I usually avoid the opening film for festivals, and at SXSW, there is usually a single-screening of a smaller film I want to see. This year, it was The Square, which I knew very little about. It was an excellent choice. Screening with his darkly humorous and startling short, Spider let the audience know they were in for a very interesting ride. A tale of choice and repercussions, the audience gasped audibly several times, in unison, and at one point twice, yet the shock value was never gratuitous or outrageous. I don't know if it has distribution yet, but if it does, check it out. It's the best kind of low-key, small budget thriller. It's a shame it only screened once, I'd like to see it again.

SXSW is Finally Here! Now What?


SXSW - Film t-shirt detail, from Aeioux on Flickr

SXSW is upon us and I always get a little antsy trying to figure out my schedule. It's tough to balance the screenings, panels, parties and general socializing with friends I only see at festival time. Not for the first time, I had to decide if I was going to stick with a Film badge or upgrade to Gold to take advantage of the Interactive conference. Thankfully, SXSW knows the lines between Interactive and Film get blurrier each year, and offer a number of joint panels and events.

Like every other year, I like to have a screening-heavy schedule. SXSW is a film lover's dream because the programming is very eclectic, with an emphasis on smart, independent films (Hollywood hates me, but I'll write about that later). This year, my most anticipated films seem to include more docs than usual, something I blame on SXSW; I never used to be a big doc fan, but the lineup is consistently strong, and several of them really resonate with me.

Just a few of the films I'm looking forward to seeing are:

The Well-Equipped Festival Goer: Surviving SXSW Film 2009


The Paramount, from rockygirl05 on Flickr

Note: A 2010 guide to the SXSW Film Festival is now available.

[Editor's Note: Jenn originally posted this survival guide to her blog last week, and I thought it was so enjoyable and useful that I asked permission to repeat it here.]

I've been a badge holder for SXSW film for the last several years, with the exception of last year, when I had a film pass. If you're going to really do a film festival, and get 4-6 screenings in a day, with all that line standing, you can make it easier on yourself with:

DVD Review: Secondhand Lions


[Editor's Note: Please welcome our latest contributor, Jenn Brown.]

With SXSW just around the corner, and Tim McCanlies' latest film, The Two Bobs having its world premiere, it's a perfect time to review one of his earlier films, Secondhand Lions. McCanlies is a well-known figure in the local filmmaking scene as a writer, director, and co-founder of Fantastic Fest. His script for 2003's Secondhand Lions was known in Hollywood as one of the best unproduced scripts around, taking 10 years to make it the screen.

It's the 1960s, and Walter (Haley Joel Osment) is a weenie, even by his mother's low standards, so she abandons him to his great-uncles in rural Texas, with hopes of getting part of their rumored wealth. Garth and Hub (Michael Caine, Robert Duvall) after a mysterious 40-year absence, are back home and not taking retirement any more gracefully than the presence of greedy relatives and traveling salesmen. After Walter suggests they spend some of their money, the uncles start spending their wealth on the most outrageous items, starting with a skeet machine and culminating with a lion.

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