Monday, March 22, 2010

South by Southwest

Back from this phenomenal festival. As a first-timer for the biggest iteration yet of this long running conglomeration of interactive, film, and music, I have to say that SXSW exceeded my expectations.

I don't know if these are dangerous or not

Highlights of the festival in general.

The good.

1. The Volunteers. Best volunteers I have ever seen at a festival.

Screenburn Into The Pixel Artwork

2. Free. Free everywhere. Free food, free drinks, free parties, free music. Free wireless in the convention hall. Free music samples from all artists. Free street performances.

Legos in The Screenburn arcade

3. IFC Crossroads. What a great hangout. Free food and drinks. Live bands. Live interviews with filmmakers. Free wireless.

IFC Crossroads

4. The films. A great selection of both narrative and documentary films. I love the fact that I keep hearing from others about the one best film to see, many of which I missed. This festival has such depth and breadth that it would be impossible to see them all. The festival director said they had over 700 documentary feature submissions alone.

5. The venues. The Alamo Lamar and Ritz are great comfortable theaters with wait service and a full menu. Fantastic! The Paramount was more uncomfortable, but was of the classic old design with > 1000 people. Great fun for premieres.

Austin 6th Street At Night

The bad.

1. Size. I have unconfirmed rumors that the total attendance was 50 000 people for all three components. That is far too many for the small size of the facilities to handle.

2. Everyone has their face buried in a a cell/smart phone. Face to face contact no longer is necessary. Might as well do the whole thing virtually.

3. They were not kidding about infections running rampant. Illnesses abound.

4. Pedicabs? Walk already.

5. Predators' First Look. Why bother taking up a cinema spot? Just fill a convention hall, They would have gotten the same effect, and could pack up to 1000 people.

Infestations of musicians

The ugly.

1. The size noted above means there were lines everywhere. Lines to register. Lines to see the panels. Lines to see the films. Standing in line for an hour to see a film only to be turned away is ridiculous. Growing pains, pshaw! SXSW is obese and needs some changes. Spending half your day in the cinema, and the other half in a line is a pain.

2. Shuttle between the film venues:
Regular travel back and forth over an established, often short route by a vehicle.
That's what it's supposed to mean. Apparently to SXSW it does not.



Kick Ass!

Premiere for Kick Ass!

This is decent superhero movie where a teenager decides one day to become a superhero (no superpowers to speak of) and what happens after. Extremely violent and needs some editing work and about 20 minutes cut.

Based on the SNL skit. I wasn't expecting much, and expectations were exceeded. Decently funny.

Animated Shorts
The animated shorts are where I continuously find the most innovative and cutting edge takes on cinema. Great collection.

Get Low
Oscar bait for Duvall's performance of a man who wishes to have a funeral and invites half the town to his final confessional.

Get Low, Bill Murray, Aron Schneider (director), Sissy Spacek, Robert Duvall

A very low budget sci fi that attempts some comment on human trafficking. Unfortunately it does not work.

A set of shorts that was supposed to be some sort of commentary on the future of civilization. Largely lacking in imagination.


Life 2.0

Life 2.0 Poster

This documentary is better than the Second Skin doc I posted about earlier and has some surprisingly dark twists and some information I had not seen.

Camp Victory, Afghanistan
One of the top generals in Afghanistan and how US commanders interacted with him.

The People vs. George Lucas
People hating on GL for what he did to their childhood memories. Mostly humurous.

Richard Garriott - Man On A Mission

Richard Garriot - The Man Who Invented Ultima - And He Went To Space Too
This is my second favorite doc of the festival about Lord British's rise from computer nerd, Ultima creation, lots of money, and spearheading efforts for space tourists and becoming one himself, and the first father son astronauts in the U.S. (his father worked for NASA). Very cool.

Saturday Night
What goes into making a Saturday Nigh live show (the one with John Malkovich) as shot by James Franco. A lot of work, apparently, and some interesting moments (cutting skits at the last minute), but the whole thing really needed a more thorough look at the whole SNL phenomenon.

Beijing Taxi
How the changes in Beijing leading up to the 2008 Olympic games affected some residents. Not very good.

Hands down one of the most phenomenal documentaries I have seen in a while. A man, brutally attacked late at night by a group of men, rebuilds his lost former life and memories by constructing a miniature WWII Belgian town that he calls Marwencol and populating it with figurines and stories that are really his therapeutic output. Absolutely riveting and I am glad I got in to see this.

SX Global Shorts
Some interesting shorts. Others were not.


How To Rock
Koreans drinking, early in the day, fascinating.

Directing the Dead: Genre Directors

Directing The Dead Panel - Ti West (Dir. House of the Devil), Neil Marshall (Dir. The Descent), Scott Weinberg (moderator, Cinematical and Fear.Net), Robert Rodriguez (duh), Ruben Fleischer (Dir. Zombieland), Matt Reeves (Cloverfield)

This panel had some interesting things to say about genre movies.

A Conversation With Michel Gondry
A great talk with Gondry, who is one of the most imaginative filmmakers out there. Only, he shouldn't complain about people leaving early when the panel did not even start till 30 minutes past the stated start time.

Floating Heads are Dead - Why Traditional Posters Suck
Not that good.

Cinematography for Improvised Films
This was a decent panel on how to get great looking images out of improvised or spontaneous moments (with some fascinating examples).

How to Defuse a Bomb - Life Lessons From The Cast of MacGruber

MacGruber Panel - Akiva Schaffer (SNL and Lonely Planet, moderator), Jorma Taccone (SNL and Lonely Planet, director), Will Forte (SNL and MacGruber star), Kirsten Wiig (SNL and MacGruber star), Val Kilmer (MacGruber bad guy Dieter Von Cunth ), Ryan Phillippe

Mostly just funny, including Seth Meyers recount of the Boner Ghost.

Special Events:

Predators First Look

Predators on the side of a hotel
Cool, but why not do it in the convention center.

IFC Film Party
Fun. Great DJ. I swear I saw Jason Reitman at this.


thebiz said...

Nice recap. I didn't realize SXSW had become so film oriented. The lines and amounts of people indeed sounds stressful but it sounds like you had a blast.

bllius said...

I'm not sure that it is. The lines for the interactive conference were even longer, and the streets were filled when the music part began.