I ate a bunch of unhealthy food, met some folks in the film industry, drank too much free beer and saw some movies. Did I mention the unhealthy food? It will take months to recover. That was my SXSW.
So what about the movies? It was an eclectic bunch. That’s the best part about festivals, the selections are so new no one has heard of most of them, so you have to take a chance on what you see. Missed a couple of things due to timing, but here’s what I did see.
CABIN IN THE WOODS
The ultrasecret Joss Whedon/Drew Goddard horror that sat on MGM’s shelf for two years. It’s mind-bogglingly fantastic. Knowing too much will ruin the experience – take my advice, go in cold and be prepared for awesomeness. If you weren’t feeling generous you could say it’s too silly (which it is), but I had so much fun with it I refuse to complain. Is it better than all other horror movies? No. It IS all other horror movies.
Willem Defoe hunting a thought-to-be extinct Tasmanian Tiger in the redneck backwaters of Tasmanian. This was a muddle. The central idea is pretty strong, but the writers added complexity with the introduction of some eco warriors, violent loggers, shadowy corporations, drug-addled mothers, hippy kids and a big conspiracy. Which all serves to dilute the point of the story, which was… I’m not sure. Not recommended.
21 JUMP STREET
Not a huge fan of Jonah Hill or Channing Tatum, but they killed it. It’s so well put together, it reminds me of THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, where the characters are feel real and there’s some heart/truth there. Surprisingly good.
[REC] 3: GENESIS
I’m a big fan of the original [REC], never saw the sequel, but was interested in the premise for this one. It’s set during a big wedding, so the found footage aspect makes a lot of sense, as well as the drama of such an important day and having a family of loved ones in peril. What I was not expecting was that they ditched the found footage conceit a quarter of the way though (in a rather nice way), so it becomes a straight up horror movie. It was bonkers, really over the top with ideas and situations and gore. Way goofier than I thought it would be, most of the scares and kills are played for laughs.
Great documentary about an inner city school in Brooklyn with a killer chess team. It shows the huge impact of the recession on after school programs that are so important in the US. I have to say, these kids were amazing. They are smart as hell, funny and tireless in trying to get things done. One kid, Pobo, is nothing short of a legend and he’s only like twelve. I loved it.
Another documentary. This one played to the Austin crowd because it focused on the city’s garbage collectors and one white lady’s attempt to get them to put on a public performance art piece. Obviously, they didn’t want to do it because it sounds stupid (and it was) but she convinces them anyway. It was kind of weak, apart from a couple of genuine characters, the thrust of the doc was contrived. These events would not have happened unless the filmmakers hadn’t invaded that world and made these people do things outside of their comfort zone, so it kind of rings false. But like I said, the local crowd ate it up. One person even said it was Oscar-worthy and made them proud to be a human, so what do I know?