So SXSW is the shit, and that’s really all there is to it. ACL is a fun weekend, the Greenbelt is beautiful and the State Capitol is educational, but SXSW is an experience that must be had if you consider yourself a human being. Do you like movies? You’re covered. And this isn’t the boring stuff you see at the local Cinemark PLUS if you’re like me, you can devour a Porky’s Pepperoni pizza at least once a day at the world famous Alamo Drafthouse WHILE WATCHING THE MOVIES. Like live music? Overwhelmingly covered to the point that at any given time you can hear a dozen bands playing at once if you stand still and listen on Red River. People watching? Your eyeballs will explode from the Sixth Street insanity. And I’m not even gonna go into the Interactive part of the festival (blogs are for losers – psych!) or the ungodly amount of excellent food or beverages within walking distance from downtown! (Try a chopped beef sandwich at Franklin Barbecue and die happy, or if alcohol is your thing, let’s just say after a week of SXSW, you might find yourself inexplicably waking up on the side of the road, like several poor saps I saw.)
Now me, I like the movies, and that’s the reason I wanted to go. Last year, I was able to go for free because of an awesome short film I edited. (The same posse has a feature coming soon called The Man From Orlando, so check it out!) This year I decided no matter what I would go again, even if I had to pay, just because my experience last year was so amazing. My question going into this year, though, was would I have enough fun to warrant spending the money for a film badge?
After nine days, nearly 50 screenings and more than a dozen pizzas and vanilla Cokes later, the answer is YES YES YES! First of all, the overall logistics of the fest were vastly improved over last year, due to better line management and added venues. I had a tight schedule and got into nearly everything I wanted to. The shuttle service between venues was excellent. The people I chatted with in line from all over the world were very cool. I already mentioned how badass it is to have some grub at the Drafthouse, but seeing a premiere at the historic Paramount Theater with 1,199 other film fans is an electric experience that can’t be described. “But how were the movies?” you’re asking. Overall, they were awesome. Now there were in fact a few disappointments, and again I felt like the short film selection process is really poor, (except for another short I edited called Roosevelt’s Big Deal of course, but I can’t believe with the thousands of submissions from all over the world that some of the shorts I saw even made it past the first round of elimination), but overall it was a great slate.
And the best/saddest part, as I mentioned earlier, is the fact that most of these movies will never see the light of day. That’s not to say that they are bad films at all, quite the opposite, but it’s just that some of these films don’t mesh with what most people go to see at the movies. (Alice in Wonderland made over a billion dollars? Really???) So it’s just all the more exciting to experience the unique stuff that’s being made out there or to discover the next big thing and share it with people before it hits later in the year. Which leads me to my top five movies of SXSW 2011:
1) Bellflower – A mindfuck love story about a guy who gets his heart broken and feels like the world is ending. Or maybe it actually is? Plus there is a flamethrower and lots of sex and violence.
2) The Future – Another love story (they’re cheaper to produce than movies with superheroes or fighting robots apparently) about a couple who decides to adopt a cat and how that decision impacts the rest of their lives. Oh, and the cat is the quasi-narrarator. And there is time travel, I think.
3) Attack the Block – A summer blockbuster more entertaining than any summer blockbuster you’ll probably see this summer (though I have my expectations high for Super 8 – Coach Taylor plays a sheriff!!!). Anyways, some aliens invade London, and the neighborhood kids handle that shit.
4) Charlie Casanova – A ruling class sociopath uses a deck of playing cards to justify dealing out some serious punishment to those beneath him. If The Joker were a real person, this might be what he’d be like. Plus, it’s made by an Irishman!
Now I’m not generally much of a documentary fan, but I did see some really great docs this year. Most notably were The Greatest Movie Ever Sold by Morgan Spurlock, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop by Rodman Flender, Tabloid by Errol Morris and, of course, the awesome rock-doc Foo Fighters: Back & Forth by James Moll. It’s also important to note that even though I squeezed in nearly 50 screenings, there was a lot I missed out on. That’s the nature of the beast, and I’ll just have to try and do an even better job next year of seeing more stuff!
So in conclusion, SXSW is the shit, and you need to come next year. We can say hi to each other while waiting in line and chat about what movies we’ve seen, how much fun everything is and maybe even share a pizza (the Raging Bull is excellent as well) at the Drafthouse or gawk at celebrities in the Paramount. Start saving now!!!