SXSW 2014: Adventures of a Wristbandit


The life of a "wristbandit" (or "wristbandito," as Jette calls them) can be a lonely one. While your friends are getting into the coveted ACC film panels, staggering around 6th Street wandering into parties and snagging good seats at the Paramount Theatre, you're left to wonder if the theater capacity will cut off right before you after you waited for 90 minutes in line in the freezing cold rain.

Okay, so... Maybe that only happened one time.  But my first year as a SXSW wristband wearer has been nothing short of exciting and filled with unexpected surprises.

After a bit of confusion in picking up my wristband Thursday, I made it over to the Topfer Theater at ZACH on Friday night for Bad Words. (Note to future self: you can't pick your wristband up until the first Friday of the festival.)  I paired up with a friend of mine who was in town, not to mention a badgeholder himself. I thought for sure this would give me a leg-up on screenings, as I automatically had a seat holder on my team. You can imagine both of our disappointment then when neither one of us made it into the movie. However, it's been said that the best SXSW adventures are the unplanned ones, so we ended up at Flour and Vine next door for some late-night drinks and catching up. Not a bad way to start the fest off, in my opinion.

[Editor's note: We are getting Marcie to a post-fest press screening of Bad Words so she can review it for Slackerwood when it hits Austin theaters. It's all worked out!]

Day 2 took me to the Alamo Drafthouse Village, where I knew I would have better luck at securing a theater seat. For once, I will say that the wind and rain were on my side because there weren't too many filmgoers up in that area (later on though -- not so much).

I was able to catch two incredible films: first up was a documentary on Aaron Swartz, entitled The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz.  Swartz's scandal took place around the time I was graduating from college and moving to Austin so, naturally, I wasn't as informed about his story as I could have been. Filmmaker Brian Knappenberger gives his audience everything they need to know though about Aaron's story, from his childhood upbringing until his tragic death. I'm not usually one for documentaries, but this film kept me engaged with each new interview and anecdote, bringing me to tears by the end.   

Next up was writer/director Liz Tuccillo's feature debut, Take Care. Starring Leslie Bibb, the film follows her as she arrives home from the hospital. he's been hit by a car, breaking both her right arm and left leg, and has no one to take care of her.  Unsure of what to do, she calls up her ex-boyfriend (whom she took care of while he was battling colon cancer) to now care for her while she recovers.

Bibb shines in this film, playing up the quirks and uncertainty that every girl has in being around an ex-boyfriend. What was really refreshing though was Tuccillo's writing.  I can't recall the last time I saw such a spot-on portrayal of a romance being rekindled in a humorous and down-to-earth way.

Day 3 brought me downtown for Austin Film Festival's Hair of the Dog Brunch.  Now in its fifth year, this is always one of my favorite parties to attend because I can count on seeing some familiar faces. Among them was Slackerwood's own Debbie Cerda (we complimented each other on our lovely matching Slackerwood necklaces), as well as local talent like Stephen Belyeu, Ashland Viscosi, Alvaro Rodriguez and many others.  This party always gets me so excited for AFF, even if it's still 7 months away!

Having fully charged batteries, I made my way to the Paramount to catch David Gordon Green's latest film, Joe. I knew this wasn't one to miss because although Green can certainly make a great comedy (Pineapple Express, Eastbound and Down), he really shines with his "slice of life" films, as I call them. Joe (Nicolas Cage) is an ex-con who just wants to live a simple, conflict-free life. This changes when he meets Gary (Tye Sheridan), a 15-year-old boy trying to take care of his abused family and alcoholic father. Their story is a struggle of when to do the right thing, and at what cost. Cage and Sheridan shine onscreen, not to mention the entire cast themselves.

My favorite post-screening question was (to Green), "Who (in the film) were the professional actors and who had never acted before?" Green smirked and simply said, "If you can't tell, then that means I've done my job correctly."

Day 4 brought me downtown once again, but after several laps around the Convention Center and a failed attempt at finding free food, I decided to take my film watching for the night across the bridge and over to the Long Center for Michael Tully's Ping Pong Summer (Debbie's review). I'd heard it was like a time machine back to 1985, and it's true. Tully takes you on a journey back to cassette tapes, Icee's, and shorts that were just a little too short. Filmmaker Brian Poyser led the post-film Q&A where Tully talked about his personal connection to the story, shooting in Ocean City, Maryland, and the fact that Susan Sarandon is the co-owner of a ping pong club (everyone's minds were blown).  It certainly ended the night on a good note.

I didn't really take any noteworthy pictures on my journey, so I'll just leave the above photo of Nicolas Cage from the Joe premiere here for you... So pensive.  So elusive.  So Nic Cage.

[Photo credit: Mike Saulters]