The sun came out after a dreary start to the morning on my last day attending the SXSW Film Festival. I noticed while waiting for an early morning bus that a few people were out jogging at 8am. This must be habit for Austin residents to avoid the heat. And it was going to be 85 degrees that day. I arrived to pick up XXPRESS passes which allows easier access to the movies. I woke up early to avoid a sell out situation of those select few passes. Given the drunken crowds last night, maybe it wasn’t worth it. However, better to be safe than sorry at a festival .
The three movies I saw on my last day will be seen by a wider audience than most of what I’ve seen the previous few days.
The latest improvise entry into the “mumblecore” genre, Drinking Buddies was my favorite of the narrative feature at SXSW. It was the ideal feature for the young, indie loving hipsters who dwell Austin during SXSW. Olivia Wilde dazzles as Kate, a fiery brew master holding her own as the lone, fun loving woman working at the Chicago brewery. This is the best performance of her career, one that shows a raw side of her talent. Sparks between her and her coworker Luke (Jake Johnson) fly as they have a wild fire attraction. Both are suppressed by the bondage of their unsatisfied commitments to other people (Anna Kindrick and Ron Livingston). Relational strife among these 30 somethings becomes as complicated as a night of soft flirtation, casual drinking, and honest emotion. Most things about Drinking Buddies really works as a little movie with a big impact including the acting and the direction of emerging breakout director Joe Swanberg. Mr. Swanberg is about to hit the big time…think Mark Duplass two years ago (even though Joe has been working longer and harder in the industry). With the cast and subject matter, I think any major indie studio would be smart to purchase it for distribution for a summer or an early autumn release. Turns out Magnolia Pictures acquired the distribution rights for Drinking Buddies and I hope they heed my advice with the time of year release date. Usually, Magnolia releases there movies on VOD, so a wider audience has the availability to watch Drinking Buddies. The possibilites marketing this movie (imagine the poster art alone) has potential. Keep this movie on your movie watching radar.
The VH1 music doc Downloaded chronicles Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker rise and fall with Napster which caught on with music fans and started a revolution. In full disclosure, audiences will take away how the music industry was clueless and dumbfounded by the transfer of online music file sharing sites. The interviews with the various “talking heads” was informative and revelatory. From my perspective, you learn a lot. Music fans have been bitter at the industry ever since. Downloaded is an indepth look at how everything went down. It started with a college kid, files were being shared online, Metallica got upset, the record industry got involved, and the rest is history. Since this is a music documentary produced by VH1, it seems likely to air on that channel. Better an insightful documentary like Downloaded than a stale and lame reality series. Stick to the music, VH1! This would follow a similar trend like the new distribution deal CNN has begun showing documentaries on their network. This is required viewing for diehard music fans as well as casual listeners. Downloaded was the perfect documentary to play at a festival both showing music and movies.
Fox Searchlight decided to bring their Sundance thriller The East to SXSW as well as fly the principal cast with the director to the Closing Night screening. It has played well for other auidences. This one had enthusiastic and sustained applause way beyond the typical “let’s respect the filmmaker who’s here” type of reception. The cast including Brit Marling (who serves as screenwriter, too), Ellen Page, and Alexander Skarsgard took the stage with director Batmanglij to answer questions from an eager audience. People have been buzzing about it since Sundance as did this crowd. As they all should since The East is smart and well done bigger budget feature for the filmmaking duo of Batmanglij and Marling. Slated for a summer release, it should appeal to high minded younger adults as well as a sophisticated older crowd searching for an intelligent viewing option during a season where there are few and far between. I interviewed the cast and crew and will feature this in a seperate post very soon!
After the movie ended, I left the Paramount Theater with my friends embarking on a fun night in Austin. The crowd was electric excited to see their bands from Justin Timberlake, who’s literally everywhere now he was appropriately in Austin, to the shock of a surprise performance by Prince. As for my friends, we had drinks at the hip and super cool Midnight Cowboy. Do yourself a favor and attend this place next time your in Austin. Reservation is required but worth it. And be paitent being let in. This was a perfect way to end SXSW Film Festival. I hope to be back in Austin, Texas soon!