SXSW started last Friday and runs through Saturday (technically it ends Sunday with some good BBQ, the traditional softball game (which I may sign up for) and just a couple of final bands). This entry will just cover a bunch of the movies I’ve seen but SXSW is a lot more – music (which is just heating up), comedy (which I haven’t made it to at all), tech, health, sports, politics, parties, etc. For more on other parts of SXSW see the link above or my wife’s blog on her experiences.
There are about 125 full length movies covering many genres, as well as shorts and episodic (TV shows or streaming). There are also related panels. For example, there was a panel with Michael Fassbender and Terrence Malick hosted by Richard Linklater discussing Malick’s new film, Song to Song, a panel with the showrunners for Game of Thrones, Bob Odenkirk discussing his projects, the whole cast of VEEP (interviewed by Chuck Todd of Meet the Press, etc.
Here are some of the best (and a couple that I didn’t like):
Fits and Starts: Wyatt Cenac (The Daily Show) in a comedy about a struggling writer married to a much more successful one.
A Bad Idea Gone Wrong: a couple of inept thieves get stuck in the house they are robbing. This was pretty funny and won a best ensemble cast award.
Becoming Bond: a cute, quasi documentary about George Lazenby, the actor who played James Bond once. It was interesting and funny. Lazenby talking about his life is interlaced with humorous re-enactments. He is an itneresting guy (and was at the screening).
Muppet Guys Talking – Secrets Behind the Show the Whole World Watched: Frank OZ directed and participated in this movie with other of the original Muppets. Archival footage was also used.
Mr. Roosevelt: the directorial debut and starring Noel Wells. This is a comedy, set in Austin. Wells character returns to Austin and spends an awkward weekend with her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend and comes to terms with her previous choices.
Bill Nye, Science Guy: an update on Bill Nye and what he’s up to. Entertaining and relevant. As the Q+A demonstrated, he likes to talk.
Hot Summer Nights: Sort of a coming of age movie (but he never really comes of age). A teenager spends the summer on Cape Cod in 1991, falls in love and gets involved in drug dealing.
Free Fire: This opens soon. An action/comedy movie that flies by. If you like action/violence you’ll probably like this. Also pretty funny.
Unrest: A great documentary by and about a sufferer of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Eye opening and very moving.
Meth Storm: Arkansas USA: Another really eye opening and moving documentary. The film maker spends time with a law officer on an operation to try to make inroads to cut off the supply from Mexico and with a family with meth addiction problems. This will be on HBO and is a must see (but tough to watch the drug addicted family).
Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo: A really good documentary on the Apollo program from the perspective of mission control. Inspiring.
Song to Song: This is the new Malick movie. It has a great cast that includes Rooney Mara, Ryan Gosling, Natalie Portman and Michael Fassbender. If you are really into Malick you might like it but I was disappointed. Too much cutting, not enough fleshing out of the story. If you live in Austin it might be worth watching just to see all the locations he used. Sometimes it seemed he just drove around and had people get out of the car if he saw something he thought was interesting.
The Challenge: So far my winner for worst film of the festival. A documentary about folks in the middle east that train falcons to catch pigeons in the desert. If they had interesting characters that did the training or explained why this is a compelling activity it could have been good but they never got into the backstory. Based on the picture below doesn’t it look like it could be interesting? This still didn’t get my worst SXSW movie ever award. That goes to 2010’s Trash Humpers by Harmony Korine. I wanted to walk out of that one but since I was watching it at the Alamo Drafthouse and had to pay my bill I couldn’t.