There’s a bumper that’s played before a couple of films during South by Southwest (SXSW) showing a clean cut guy from out of town complaining about the festival and the city on day one. By the end of the week, he’s become an unkempt local, complaining about the outsiders. As the great Homer Simpson once said, “It’s funny because it’s true.”
It’s been an incredible, strange and often surreal experience this past week here in Austin. I recall the wonderment and joy of that first Alamo Lamar midnight film last week before the festival even started. Learning the ropes, taking in the atmosphere and abiding by the house rules out of fear of brain bashing and or zombie leg bite.
Six days later, and it already feels like home. Not even just at the Alamo’s, but the city in general. I’ve already picked up on the best ways to get places, which ones to avoid. I even got interviewed by local news about the traffic problems during the festival. I feel like I’ve been a part of this forever. It feels like where I belong.
Alas, this is not home. Not yet, anyways. I’ve got a lovely wife and four wonderful cats waiting 1000 miles away for my return and amidst all the great films, delicious food and drinks, and all around good times, I’m anxious to get back to them. One more day…
I’ve had the best of intentions of doing daily updates as to my goings ons here at SXSW, but non stop films, lack of sleep and free food and booze have a way of crushing said intentions. Currently I’m waiting in line for Will Ferrel’s latest, Casa de mi Padre, and since I have an hour, I wanted to play a little catch up.
Sunday started with some strong films both involving the vulnerability and mistreatment of women. The first was Eden, a true story about a young Korean girl who is kidnapped one night into sex trafficking and the choices she would make to survive. It was an incredibly heavy film to start the day, but was just as equally powerful. The film manages to present many of the awful situations without being gratuitous. Jamie Chung stars and completely blew me away with her performance. If awards were just, she would at the very least be nominated.
Immediately afterwards was another of my most anticipated films of the festival, Los Chidos. Directed by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, whose day job is performing in The Mars Volta, Los Chidos is his personal way of addressing male machismo, misogyny, and homophobia, but addressing it in ways that only he knows how. Probably the most shocking and polarizing film I have seen this entire week, it was also the most brave and willing to take the audience to places they definitely didn’t want to be in order to understand and, more importantly, pay attention, to the heart of the story being told.
If you can’t tell, I absolutely loved it. I also got a chance to interview Omar about the film and his music. Hopefully i’ll be able to get it transcribed within the next day or two.
Sunday night’s midnighter was probably the movie I was most looking forward too, V/H/S. The film centers around a group of mischief makers who get propositioned by a guy to break into a house and steal a VHS tape. What unfolds one of the greatest Horror anthologies I’ve ever seen and definitely the best use of the found footage format to date. Genuine scares and originality abound.
Before V/H/S, we were also treated to an X-rated sneak peak of the upcoming uber anthology The ABC’s of Death. This film will feature 26 directors each doing three or four minute shorts, each revolving around a death determined by the letter of the alphabet they received. It looks completely out of control and I can’t wait for its release.
Monday started pretty early with a quick screening of Beauty is Embarrassing, a documentary on the life of artist Wayne White. Wants has had a prolific career that included puppet and art design on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and animation for MTV during the channel’s heyday. This was the best documentary I’ve seen the entire week and maybe one of the most watchable films I’ve seen in quite some time.
Later that day saw the premiere of HBO’s upcoming new series, GIRLS. Created, written by and starring Lena Dunham, with Judd Apatow executive producing, this show is going to catch like wildfire. Dunham has given a voice to this generation of twenty something’s that have finished college and are stuck asking “now what?” The first three episodes we’re shown and it continued to get better with each one. Three hours later and I could have easily watched more. A Q&A followed with Dunham and Apatow, who may be the most quick-witted guy I’ve ever seen.
The only bad thing about GIRLS? It ran so long that I missed 21 Jump Street. Not a big deal as it comes out Friday, but word on the street is that it was incredible. I can’t wait to catch it soon.
After some phone charging and some delicious tacos from La Pena, I found myself at the Vimeo theater for the documentary Bad Brains: Band in DC. Bad Brains were one of the most influential punk rock bands from the start, showcased with interviews by fellow punk rock legends Henry Rollins and Ian Mackaye. The film details the band from the start and showcases their early raw energy and unfortunate and constant self destruction, mostly due to the tragic deteriation of frontman H.R’s mental state. A powerful film that sadly still doesn’t have a distributor. Somebody get on that pronto. The world needs to see this.
The last film of the day ended up being the worst of the week. The Tall Man, starring Jessica Biel, is a story of a small broken town whose children keep getting abducted, supposedly by “The Tall Man,” a local myth that everyone but Biel seems to believe. The film starts strong and even has a somewhat interesting plot twist that unfortunately completely falls apart and becomes more and more non-sensical as the movie plods along. The film is under two hours, but feels like it ran forever, a pacing problem not helped by the film having more endings than The Return of the King. Avoid this film at all costs.
Whew, that was a lot. I’m now in my seat for Casa de mi Padre here at SXSW 2012. I’ve got a good feeling about this one.
– Matt Hardeman