Monday, March 22, 2010

SXSW Recap - Day 6

This was our last full day here. Unfortunately, I was feeling very sick (while Dij was feeling better), so we didn't get to do much. We also didn't want to be too tired for the drive back the next day.

It started with some good ol' Texas BBQ at Franklin.


Then we went to see our final screening of the festival, at the Paramount.


synopsis: Spun in the Southern storytelling tradition, GET LOW is about the mysterious 1930s Tennessee hermit who famously threw his own rollicking funeral party... while he was still alive.

mini-review: An old man throws a party before he dies. It's a simple story, but well told. The old man is carrying a dark secret from his past, which you know will be addressed by the end of the film. Since the whole story is heading towards that last monologue by Robert Duvall (which he knocks out of the park), everything that happens before is a character study. Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek turn in fine performances, but this whole movie hinges on Duvall. I will be shocked if he's not nominated for an Oscar next year. It's a good, small film.

things learned at the Q&A:
  • Bill Murray is hilarious, but we already knew that. The fact was just reinforced ten-fold when we saw him in person. He was making people laugh just by standing, or slightly changing his facial expression. He had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand.
  • The budget for the film was $7 million. It looked great for that amount, especially with that cast.
  • This was Aaron Schneider's first full-length film. He won an Academy Award for Best Live-Action Short Film in 2004.
  • Robert Duvall was the first choice for the role of Felix Bush.
  • Honestly, we didn't pay too much attention to what was being said, because we were too busy laughing at Bill Murray. He's just too funny. At one point, he gave a thumb-up to a guy that claimed to know the identity of the culprit from a certain scene (which wasn't explained in the movie itself), and it was absolutely perfect.
director Aaron Schneider, Bill Murray

Ending the festival with Bill Murray is probably the best thing we could've asked for. Can't wait for next year. We may go back to Austin sooner, perhaps for Fantastic Fest in September. We'll see.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

SXSW Recap - Day 5

This was probably the worst day, movie-wise, at the festival. It didn't help that I woke up with a wicked sore throat and a runny nose, probably from standing out in the rain the previous night.

We went out for the screening of...


We got to Alamo Lamar around 4:00, for the showing at 4:45. We were told the show was sold out. Keep in mind that, by this point, they were letting the badge holders into shows on average 15-20 minutes prior to the show's start. We were there 45 minutes before it was supposed to start and it was sold out?

We went back to the hotel to kill some time, then came back to Lamar for the screening of...


This was also sold out. Typical. The volunteers were gracious enough to remind us that there were plenty of seats at another screening, which had just started. We said what the hell and went to see...


synopsis: Set among the coalfields of Eastern Kentucky, PASSENGER PIGEONS is a story about dealing with loss and an ambiguous future in the dark hills of Appalachia. The film quietly interweaves four separate story lines over the course of a weekend as the town copes with the death of a local miner.

mini-review: Meh. There isn't much of a story, so the movie is a character piece. The problem is, none of the characters are very interesting. The characters aren't connected in any way, other than the miner's death, and they never interact with each other. So what's the point? The actors were pretty good, I guess. Not the worst movie we saw at the festival. Oh no, that would come next.

We got out of PASSENGER PIGEONS at 8:20. The movie we wanted to see next was set to show at midnight, so we had a lot of time in between. Looking at the schedule, there were only two options, and one of them was watching RED WHITE & BLUE again. Dij wouldn't like that. So we went with the other choice.


synopsis: A film unearthed from the buried landscape of the American nightmare, TRASH HUMPERS follows a small group of elderly 'Peeping Toms' through the shadows and margins of an unfamiliar world. Crudely documented by the participants themselves, we follow the debased and shocking actions of a group of true sociopaths, the likes of which have never been seen before. Inhabiting a world of broken dreams and beyond the limits of morality, they crash against a torn and frayed America. Bordering on an ode to vandalism, it is a new type of horror - palpable and raw.

mini-review: Worst film I've ever seen. Absolutely wasted an hour and a half of our lives. It makes JACKASS look like CITIZEN KANE in comparison. Wanna know what Dij said afterwards? "I would rather see ENTER THE VOID again." James, we don't need to have another Worst Movie Night. I've found my champ, and you can't beat this.

We were feeling pretty crummy by this point. We were sick, and we were pissed off. We ran out of the theater and got in line for...


synopsis: Brent, a 17-year-old student grieving after the recent loss of his father, politely declines an invitation to the end of year school dance from Lola, the quietest girl in school. Devastated by the rejection, Lola and her overly protective father kidnap Brent and force him to endure a macabre prom night of their own creation.

mini-review: Oh thank you, Jesus! Thank you Sean Byrne, for saving us from a shitty day of movies. You, and the rest of Australia, rock. Other than KICK-ASS, this was the most entertaining audience experience at the festival. People cheered, gasped, groaned, and winced throughout. Doesn't hurt that the movie is really, really good. I don't think this has US distribution yet, and that's a shame. This would be a great film to see with a group of friends.

All in all, not a total abomination of a day. I'll try to block out the majority of it.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

SXSW Recap - Day 4

We spent the better part of the day on South Congress, south of downtown, littered with vintage shops, restaurants, and food stands.

Cool place.

Our first screening for the day at was 9:30PM, which was for the world premiere of...


synopsis: Only one American hero has earned the rank of Green Beret, Navy SEAL and Army Ranger. Just one operative has been awarded 16 Purple Hearts, 3 Congressional Medals of Honor and 7 Presidential Medals of Bravery. And only one guy is man enough to still sport a mullet.

mini-review: I'm gonna come out and say I'm a big fan of the MacGruber skits on SNL. Yeah, they're two decades late on parodying MacGyver. I don't care. Will Forte makes me laugh every single time he plays the character. He knows how to sell it. That said, my expectations weren't very high for the movie. Let's face the facts, movies based on SNL skits haven't fared too well since WAYNE'S WORLD. But the combination of Forte, Jorma Taccone's direction, a solid supporting cast (Kristen Wiig, Val Kilmer, Ryan Phillipe) and a heaping dose of lunacy and vulgarity aid in making the movie a lot better than it should have been. Or maybe I'm just biased.

We couldn't stay for the Q&A because we had to run to Alamo Ritz to stand in line for...


synopsis: Oscar and his sister Linda are recent arrivals in Tokyo. Oscar's a small-time drug dealer and Linda works as a nightclub stripper. One night, Oscar is caught up in a police bust and shot. As he lies dying, his spirit, faithful to the promise he made his sister that he would never abandon her, refuses to leave the world of the living. It wanders through the city, his visions growing evermore distorted, evermore nightmarish. Past, present and future merge in a hallucinatory maelstrom.

mini-review: HOLY. SHIT. Best movie of the festival. Notice I didn't say "favorite," but "best." This isn't a "fun" movie. You will not be entertained. It will test your patience and endurance. You will be appalled at the amount of nudity and graphic sex scenes. You will say "what the fuck just happened" after it ends. You will probably hate this movie, like Dij did. That's too bad.

There was no Q&A for this. DAMMIT.

Friday, March 19, 2010

SXSW Recap - Day 3

We were pretty tired from getting in late the previous night, so instead of going to a panel called

A Conversation with Michel Gondry,

we slept in. Regrettable, but we couldn't help it.

We had some time before the first movie screening, so we decided to eat at Frank, a place famous for their hot dogs. Unfortunately, this was a Sunday, and they only serve brunch on Sundays. So no wieners. Still, the food was good. I had chicken and waffles and Dij had the equivalent of a Denny's Grand Slam breakfast. Oh, and there was a DJ playing music near our table.

After that, it was time for...


synopsis: When a Pakistani-Muslim engineering student moves into a house with punk Muslims of all stripes in Buffalo, New York, his ideologies are challenged to the core.

mini review: Muslim punks. Yeah, you read that right. It's an interesting subject, and the movie handled it quite well. I was a little lost on all the non-English words (I want to say "Muslim" words, but I thought that might be offensive... I dunno) that were thrown about by the characters, though. I did like its message of challenging your faith and ideologies, and that's something we can all adhere to, no matter what religion we fall into. Solid flick, but I don't see it getting a wide release in theaters.

producer Nahal Ameri, Nicholas Riley (Harun), Dominic Rains (Jehangir), Bobby Naderi (Yusef), director Eyad Zahra

(There's wasn't anything too interesting at the Q&A.)

Then we headed over to Lamar for the screening of...


synopsis: Erica spends her nights trawling that bars and beds of Austin. Emotionally withdrawn, sleeping with multiple men is just what she does... until she meets the older and mysterious Nate, who claims to have an "honorable discharge" from Iraq. Despite his air of danger, Nate's the only guy who doesn't just seem to want to get her into bed, and the two form a hesitant bond. But one of Erica's casual sexual encounters, Franki -- a young, hot-headed wannabe rock star trying to make it big -- is about to return dramatically into her life...

mini-review: Very, very dark. (And still not the darkest movie we saw at the festival... that would come on day 4.) It starts and ends exactly at the right places, and doesn't waste a single scene. And it gives you just enough information about the three main characters -- not too much, not too little -- that's perfect for the story it's telling. And the ending is more than a little heartbreaking. This movie reminded me a lot of SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE, in its tone and characters. Make of that what you will.

Marc Senter (Franki), Amanda Fuller (Erica), Noah Taylor (Nate), producer Bob Portal, director Simon Rumley, moderator Tim League (also executive producer of the movie)

things learned at the Q&A:
  • Director Simon Rumley is English, and spent the summer of 2009 living at executive producer Tim League's house in Austin, while shooting the movie. They had previously met at another film festival.
  • Noah Taylor, who plays Nate, is Australian. He had a dialect coach from University of Texas, and frequently listened to a famous radio personality in Austin (forgot his name) in preparation for the role. I think he pulled off the southern drawl quite well, since I didn't have a clue that he was from another country until the Q&A.
  • Marc Senter, who plays Franki, actually played the guitar for the band scenes in the movie. The band practiced for weeks so they can play and sound authentic. I believe he also said that he wrote the song that's in the movie.
I'm not writing anything about the story, because it's better to know little as possible before seeing the movie, if you're able to. Dij wasn't a fan. She was actually a little shookup after the movie, so instead of going to the screening of SERBIAN FILM (another really dark movie, supposedly) like we had planned, we called it a night.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

SXSW Recap - Day 2

We started this day by attending a panel called...

Directing the Dead: Genre Directors Spill Their Guts

I was very excited until they told us (about 15 minutes before the start of the panel) that for unforeseen circumstances, Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth were not able to make it. They were to be replaced by Robert Rodriguez and Neil Marshall. Still exciting, but I really wanted to see and hear Tarantino.

The panel itself was really good. Most of the talk was centered on the horror genre, although several non-horror films were mentioned at key points. Scott Weinberg (the moderator), from the website Cinematical, was pretty funny and moved the conversation along at a nice pace, covering a wide range of topics, including the MPAA, remakes, and 3D.

Robert Rodriguez, Ruben Fleischer

My favorite panelist was Robert Rodriguez, as he had the most interesting things to say (being the most experienced out of that group), and he was clearly the crowd favorite as well. I was also impressed with Ti West, as I have not seen any of his work, but his comments were illuminating in regards to what it's like to be a very low-budget filmmaker at around my age. And I have to mention Matt Reeves, who is currently working on the remake of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (called LET ME IN). The first time I heard news of the remake, I wrote it off as a quick cash-in to the current vampire craze birthed by the dreadful TWILIGHT movies. But after hearing what he had to say, his approach to the remake (going more into the novel it's based on, and basing part of it on his own childhood), and his reasons on making it in the first place (not for money, but for his love of the story), I'm now sold.

After that, we headed to the screening of...


synopsis: The latest film from Jean-Pierre Jeunet is a magical tale of underdogs battling callous industrial giants with imagination and fantasy reminiscent of Buster Keaton.

mini-review: So very Jeunet. If you liked AMELIE and DELICATESSEN, chances are you'll enjoy the new film from the quirky French director. Handmade gadgets, Rube Goldberg-like reveals of cause-and-effect, color filters, Dominique Pinon... all in a circus version of Paris, as only Jeunet can make it. I loved it, Dij loved it even more.

moderator Harry Knowles (from, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Jeunet's translator

things learned at the Q&A:

  • "Micmacs" is a made-up word, and Jeunet equated it to the English word "shenanigan."
  • What's with the posters of MICMACS that are seen in various scenes throughout the movie? Jeunet said something like, "it doesn't make sense, does it? It's crazy." Then he laughed.
  • He's sick of makings movies in Paris, and said he would like to shoot in America, perhaps in a city like New York or San Francisco. When someone in the audience shouted out "Austin!", he replied, "yes yes, Austin."
  • He reads at a pace of a book per day. His next film will most likely be an adaptation, not his own story. He did the same after AMELIE, making A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT, which is a novel.
  • He wanted to make this movie in 3D, but couldn't because he was already deep in the process of shooting.
After that was the screening of CYRUS, but we decided to go across town to the Alamo Drafthouse Lamar for a "super secret" screening of something. Our curiosity had won over. Plus we wanted to experience the Drafthouse, which is considered to be one of the best theaters in the country.

The screening turned out to be...


synopsis: A no-holds-barred cultural examination of the conflicted dynamic between George Lucas and his fans over the past three decades.

mini-review: This was a small letdown for few reasons. One, they already had a screening of this movie earlier in the day. Why were they giving another screening so soon? Two, this was the "super secret?" Three, the movie itself was well-made, but didn't cover any new ground that any serious STAR WARS fan wasn't aware of. This could've been good and informative maybe 5 or 6 years ago. Dij dozed off several times (she's not a fan). So it's not really for fans, and not really for the non-fans either. Bust.

Monday, March 15, 2010

SXSW Recap - Day 1

We are finally here. After 22 hours of driving, straight from Santa Ana, we have arrived. And we are in love. With Austin, of course. It reminds me a little of San Francisco, but not as dirty. And people are super friendly here. If you don't hear from us for another week, that's because we decided to stay and live here.

After getting our badges and booklets, we headed to the Paramount Theater for the opening night screening of KICK-ASS. We got there around 4PM, and there was already a line forming for the 7PM show.

Luckily, the theater seats about 1200 people, so we got in with no problems. Before the movie began, the moderator introduced Matthew Vaughn, the director. He thanked the audience for coming out, and pointed out the cast members that were present: Aaron Johnson (Kick-Ass), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Red Mist), and Clark Duke (Marty).


So how was the movie? I don't think it's a stretch to say that it truly lives up to its title. It's a great adaptation of the comic book, which is sort of a riff on WATCHMEN (real people with no superpowers dressing up in costumes and fighting crime), but with more fun added to the mix.

Matthew Vaughn continues to impress me, now fully showing off his action skills with several audience-pleasing set pieces (usually involving Hit-Girl, who steals the show whenever she's on the screen). The actors are great across the board, but I have to give a special shout-out to Nicolas Cage for his take on Adam West. It's glorious. And like I said before, Chloe Moretz's Hit-Girl steals the show. She'll be the character that everyone will be talking about as they leave the theater.

Any complaints? Hmm, I thought it was odd that Vaughn used two pieces of music from 28 DAYS LATER and SUNSHINE for a couple of scenes. I'm not against using music from other movies (Tarantino does it all the time), but those movies aren't that old so it was a little jarring to hear them. This was supposed to be the final print, but that made it almost seem like a workprint.

All in all, it's a very entertaining comic book movie. You just have to remember it's rated R for a reason.

After the credits rolled, the director and the cast came out to do a Q&A.

moderator, John Romita, Jr. (comic artist), Mark Millar (comic creator), Matthew Vaughn, Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Clark Duke

Some things that we learned at the Q&A:
  • Vaughn had just completed the final print only a week ago. We were the first audience to see this print.
  • Comic creator Mark Millar based the story (loosely) on his own childhood, when he and his friends would dress up and train to be superheroes. They weren't crazy enough to actually go out and try, though.
  • Vaughn said that it was actually pretty easy to cast Hit-Girl, because Chloe Moretz was the second girl they met for the part. It was much more difficult for him to find the actor for Kick-Ass.
  • Christopher Mintz-Plasse hit himself in the head with a nunchaku while filming a scene.
  • Nicolas Cage's impression of Adam West was his idea, and he started doing it without telling Vaughn about it beforehand. Vaughn was obviously okay with it, since it's in the movie.
We wanted to catch another movie afterwards, but we were too exhausted from the long drive. We will need to rest up for Day 2.

Friday, March 05, 2010

2010 Oscar Picks

The Oscars will unfold this Sunday, so I thought it'd be interesting to share my picks (should win) and predictions (will win) for some of the bigger awards (no, I'm not doing Best Costume or Best Makeup). Then on Monday I can see how right or wrong I was.

note: After writing out the list, I realized I really haven't seen as many movies as I thought I did. I think it's because I watch most movies on DVD, and only catch the movies I'm really excited about at the theater. So I'll be checking out PRECIOUS, THE BLIND SIDE, THE LAST STATION, CRAZY HEART, and all those documentaries and foreign flicks on DVD soon enough.

Best Picture


thoughts: The Academy decided to expand the amount of nominees for this category from 5 to 10, starting this year, and I'm all for it. I don't think it'll ultimately affect the eventual winner, but it's a nice way to give some recognition to good movies that may have been overlooked had the nominees stayed at 5.

should win: INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. My favorite movie of 2009, and overall I think is the best out of this list.

will win: AVATAR. I know, I know... it kills me too. But look at the facts -- the Academy showed a lot of love to Cameron the last time he made a feature film (so did the audience), and I see history repeating itself here. A SERIOUS MAN is too Jewish. An animated film has yet to win this category so UP is out. AN EDUCATION doesn't have much of a buzz except for the actors. Similar to UP IN THE AIR. And no matter how much I love DISTRICT 9, I know it doesn't have a chance in hell of winning. THE BLIND SIDE doesn't either, although I didn't think CRASH would win few years ago and look how that turned out (and both feature Sandra Bullock... hmm). So the real race is between AVATAR, THE HURT LOCKER, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, and PRECIOUS: DO I REALLY HAVE TO WRITE OUT THAT SUBTITLE. Out of those, the most "Oscar"-like film is PRECIOUS. But I have a feeling the Academy will give the award to FERNGULLY 3D: WAR OF THE GIANT SMURFS. (smurves?)

Best Actor

nominees: Jeff Bridges in CRAZY HEART, George Clooney in UP IN THE AIR, Colin Firth in A SINGLE MAN, Morgan Freeman in INVICTUS, Jeremy Renner in THE HURT LOCKER

thoughts: Where is Sam Rockwell for MOON? Or Tom Hardy for BRONSON? Or Tahar Rahim for A PROPHET?

should win: Jeremy Renner, but that's because I haven't seen CRAZY HEART yet. If I had, I would probably pick...

will win: Jeff Bridges. According to all the experts, this is his award to lose. Clooney is playing himself. Freeman is nominated for being in a Clint Eastwood film.

Best Supporting Actor

nominees: Matt Damon in INVICTUS, Woody Harrelson in THE MESSENGER, Christopher Plummer in THE LAST STATION, Stanley Tucci in THE LOVELY BONES, Christoph Waltz in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

thoughts: I've only seen one film on this list. Guess which.

should win: Christoph Waltz

will win: Christoph Waltz. No one else has a chance. Maybe Stanley Tucci.

Best Actress

nominees: Sandra Bullock in THE BLIND SIDE, Helen Mirren in THE LAST STATION, Carey Mulligan in AN EDUCATION, Gabourey Sidibe in PRECIOUS, Meryl Streep in JULIE & JULIA

thoughts: Streep gets nominated every. single. year. For not so great movies. I'll start caring when she's in a great one. (ADAPTATION was too long ago.)

should win: Carey Mulligan, because she's in the only movie I saw on here.

will win: Sandra Bullock. It's a tough call because I haven't seen these movies. It's either her or Sidibe. For leading roles, it usually goes to the veteran, not the newcomer (that's usually in the supporting roles).

Best Supporting Actress

nominees: Penelope Cruz in NINE, Vera Farmiga in UP IN THE AIR, Maggie Gyllenhaal in CRAZY HEART, Anna Kendrick in UP IN THE AIR, Mo'Nique in PRECIOUS

thoughts: Only saw UP IN THE AIR.

should win: Vera Farmiga. What do you mean that wasn't really her ass in that scene?!

will win: Mo'Nique. She and Christoph Waltz have their trophy stands already set and polished, ready for that little gold statue.

Best Animated Feature


thoughts: The real surprise here is THE SECRET OF KELLS, which I knew nothing about until the nominees were announced. It looks great, but I won't be able to see it until it comes out on DVD.

should win: FANTASTIC MR. FOX

will win: UP, which is also nominated for Best Picture. It can't be nominated for Best Picture and not win Best Animated Film, right? I mean, that wouldn't make any sense!

Best Director

nominees: James Cameron for AVATAR, Kathryn Bigelow for THE HURT LOCKER, Quentin Tarantino for INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, Lee Daniels for PRECIOUS, Jason Reitman for UP IN THE AIR

thoughts: Good list, except I would replace Reitman with the Coen brothers for A SERIOUS MAN.

should win: Quentin Tarantino. I'm usually in the "Best Director should go to the director of the Best Picture" camp. My Best Picture is INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, so logically Tarantino should win here. That said, I definitely wouldn't mind if Bigelow gets it.

will win: Kathryn Bigelow. No woman has ever won this award, and I think the Academy will take this opportunity to make history by giving it to her. However, we all know how much they love Cameron, so I won't even bat an eye if he ends up winning. I'll just let out the world's loudest sigh.

Best Documentary Feature


thoughts: Only caught two of these -- THE COVE, and FOOD INC.

should win: THE COVE

will win: I'm not really sure... so let's just go with THE COVE.

Best Foreign Film

nominees: AJAMI (Israel), THE MILK OF SORROW (Peru), A PROPHET (France), THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES (Argentina), THE WHITE RIBBON (Germany)

thoughts: Where's Asia? Nothing from Korea, Japan, China, Thailand... guess the Academy didn't like THIRST or MOTHER.

should win: A PROPHET. It's like De Niro's section from THE GODFATHER PART 2, done by the French. Or a much more realistic version of SCARFACE.

will win: THE WHITE RIBBON. That's what my guts say anyway. But this is usually a hard category to predict. (No one expected DEPARTURES to win last year.)

Best Visual Effects


should win: AVATAR. I feel like this is the one award that it actually deserves. All that money has to count for something, right? But I really like DISTRICT 9 going up against the big budget blockbusters here.

will win: AVATAR

Best Adapted Screenplay


should win: IN THE LOOP. Gotta love the Brits for their awesome dialogue.

will win: Either PRECIOUS or UP IN THE AIR. Yawn.

Best Original Screenplay


thoughts: Where's AVATAR? Oh right, this is Best Original Screenplay.


will win: INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS. This is the one award to Tarantino that the academy is comfortable with.

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