For the first time in many years, ComingSoon.net will be going down to Austin, Texas later this week for the 2010 South by Southwest Film Festival (a.k.a. SXSW), a subdivision of one of the largest and most prominent music festivals in the country.
Unfortunately, we'll only be there for three days, which means we're going to try to fit as much as humanly possible into a very small amount of time (follow Twitter.com/CSConFest for updates all weekend), but this year's festival promises to be a doozy with films ranging from anticipated upcoming studio fare to the smallest of low-budget indies with lots of docs and movies set in the world of music as well.
South by Southwest has created quite a distinctive identity for itself, as different from Sundance, as that is from the Toronto or Tribeca Film Festivals. One big difference is that Austin has established itself as a hub for creativity in all fields of the arts in recent years with the likes of Richard Linklater, Robert Rodriguez and others calling it home. The laid-back vibe of the oddly liberal city in the middle of one of the Reddest States has carried over to the content of the films, which includes docs about Barack Obama, Bill Hicks and Blowfly. More than anything though, we're especially looking forward to finally getting a chance to see a movie inside one of Austin's legendary venues, the Alamo Drafthouse.
The big announcement that Matthew Vaughn's Kick-Ass (Lionsgate - April 16) would kick the festival off on March 13 got a lot of people excited for this year's SXSW, because for many, it will be their first chance to see how Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.'s comic book series has been brought in all its violent glory to the screen. The cast and creators of the movie and comic book will be hitting the festival in force in its first couple days, beginning their month of promotion and press to get the word out on the movie.
That announcement was nearly overshadowed recently by the news that Robert Rodriguez's Predators (20th Century Fox - July 7) would be getting a special "First Look" preview by the local filmmaker on Friday night just a few short hours after the Kick-Ass premiere.
The SNL-spinoff comedy MacGruber (Rogue Pictures - May 21) starring Will Forte and Kristen Wiig will be premiering at SXSW on Monday night, and it promises to be very funny.
Neil Marshall will be in Austin on Monday night for a special midnight surprise, which most are expecting will be a sneak peek at his summer action movie Centurion (Magnet), which is also kicking-off the first Action Fest in Asheville, North Carolina on April 15.
Apparently, the Duplass Brothers' third movie Cyrus (Fox Searchlight - July 9) played very well at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, and it will continue its run to generate word-of-mouth before its release by Fox Searchlight. (It will be the fiercely independent Duplass' first foray into making a movie with a studio.)
They also produced Katie Aselton's The Freebie and Brian Poyser's Lovers of Hate, both of which continue their festival run at SXSW after premiering at Sundance. (You can read our previous interview with Mark Duplass on these projects here.) The festival is once again teamed with IFC Films to present three of the films from the festival via cable-on-demand and Lovers of Hate is one of three movies in the program this year.
Mark Duplass can also be seen in the animated Mars from Geoff Marslett, about the race between a robotic expedition and a manned mission to the Red Planet when life is discovered there. It uses animation similar to Richard Linklater's Waking Life but using a different animation technique to bring the actors to life. You can check out the cool trailer below to see what it looks like:
Floria Sigismondi's biopic about Joan Jett's first punk The Runaways (Apparition – March 19), starring Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, and Michael Shannon will play the festival as a preview for its impending release, as will Niels Arden Oplev's adaptation of the bestselling novel The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Music Box – March 19), which became one of Europe's biggest box office hits when released there last year. (You can read more about both of these movies on ComingSoon.net next week.)
Gela Babluani's 13 Tzameti was a fantastic modern-day noir thriller about a poor young man who stumbles into a deadly gambling ring and a game that gets deadlier and deadlier the more he learns. Those of seen it (and even those who haven't) should be looking forward to the premiere of Babluani's English-language remake 13, starring Mickey Rourke, Jason Statham, 50 Cent, Sam Riley and Ray Winstone.
Electra Luxx, Sebastian Guttierez's follow-up to Women in Trouble, stars his girlfriend, the one and only Carla Gugino, as the title character, a porn star who discovers she's pregnant, picks up a month after the earlier movie. (They're planning a third movie called Women in Ecstacy.)
Sony Pictures Classics will be showing a few of their summer releases that have been doing the festival circuit since Toronto last year including Aaron Schneider's Get Low (July 30) starring Robert Duvall and Amelie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet's latest Micmacs (May 28). Debra Granik's Winter's Bone (Roadside Attractions - June 11), a thriller about a girl from the Ozark Mountains who tries to hunt down her drugdealing father, was picked up after its debut at Sundance where it won the Grand Jury Prize and a screenwriting award.
Rhys Ifans, who can be seen in Noah Baumbach's new movie Greenberg next week also plays drug smuggler Howard Marks in Bernard Rose's Mr. Nice, which also stars David Thewlis and Chloe Sevigny. We won't have a chance to see Shane (This is England) Meadows' new movie Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee, an improvised comedy about a failed musician and rock roadie played by Paddy Considine (who appeared in Meadow's Dead Man's Shoes) whose losing streak seems to turn around when he meets rap prodigy Scor-zay-zee (rapper Dean Palinczuk), but it's also playing as part of IFC's On-Demand program.
A couple of the more unconventional comedies at SXSW include Chris D'Arienzo's Barry Munday, starring Patrick Wilson as a guy who wakes up with his genitals missing as well as a paternity suit from a woman he doesn't remember sleeping with. Also starring Judy Greer and Chloe Sevigny, we're hoping to talk with Chris and Patrick about the movie. We're also hoping to catch the world premiere of Will Canon's Brotherhood (part of the narrative competition) about a guy who must rob a convenience store as part of his initiation into a college fraternity, which goes horribly wrong.
Simon Rumley directed the Austin-based thriller Red White & Blue starring Amanda Fuller as Erica, a emotionally-damaged girl who spends her nights sleeping with different (and sometimes multiple) men, until she befriends Iraq veteran Nate, played by Noah Taylor, but ends up on the bad side of a rocker who contracts HIV from a one-night stand. It's a really dark film with strong performances, especially by Fuller and Taylor.
Normally, you'd expect to see a movie like Tiny Furniture, written, directing and starring Lena Dunham, premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, being that it's based there, but SXSW got it first, maybe because Dunham's previous movie Creative Nonfiction debuted their last year. Dunham plays a 22-year-old who returns to New York after college trying to figure out what she wants to do next. You can watch the trailer below:
A couple of cool similarly-titled horror movies from previous fests I'm been wanting to see and hope to check out in the midnight track include Eli Craig's Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, a unique twist on the teens vs. hillbillies horror sub-genre, and Andrew Bowser's Jimmy Tupper vs. the Goatman of Bowie about a guy deserted in the woods who comes out with tales of a horrifying monster.
Some of the festival's doc highlights include actor James Franco's documentary SATURDAY NIGHT which looks at what goes into the production of a single episode of the late night show "Saturday Night Live."
French filmmaker Michel Gondry took a break from music videos and quirky fictional works to make the personal documentary The Thorn in the Heart about his aunt Suzanne, who spent four decades as a schoolteacher in the more rural areas of France.
Rabid Star Wars fans--I hear there are some out there--will surely try to make it into Alexandre Phillippe's The People vs. George Lucas that delves into the relationship between the beloved filmmaker and his fans over thirty years with interviews with all sorts of people from the world of science fiction and fantasy, as well as a number of prominent film critics.
Matt Marlock and Paul Thomas use animation to tell the story of the controversial comic Bill Hicks in AMERICAN: The Bill Hicks Story featuring anecdotes about Hicks from his family and close friends recreated using animation.
Filmmaker David Bond decides to discover how much privacy anyone can possibly have in a world where the internet and government has so much information on us in Erasing David, which documents his attempt to evade private investigators he's hired to try to find him as he navigates is way through getting himself erased from the system.
Being that SXSW started out as a music festival, it makes sense they'd have lots of music-based docs and concert films on the slate.
Emmett Malloy's The White Stripes Under Great White Northern Lights, which documents the group's 2007 tour of Canada, was a big hit when it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, and it will play at Austin's Paramount Theater (and on IFC On-Demand) before its DVD release on March 16.
David Hillman Curtis' concert film Ride, Rise, Roar covers avid Byrne's preparation for a new tour, which involves a combination of him playing many of the songs from his days as frontman of the Talking Heads with avante garde choreography, making it a nice bookend to Jonathan Demme's Stop Making Sense, still one of the better concert films of the last thirty years. Check out the trailer on the Official Site.
Jonathan Furmanski's documentary The Weird World of Blowfly explores the life and career of Blowfly, the nasty foul-mouthed 69-year-old rapper born Clarence Reid who helped define the Miami soul scene of the '70s, as he goes on his first tour in years. The entertaining film on par with Anvil! The Story of Anvil includes some of the rappers and other musicians who've been greatly influenced by Blowfly including Ice T and Chuck D from Public Enemy.
In a similar theme, Thunder Soul takes a look at how Conrad Johnson turned a high school jazz band from the inner city into the Kashmere Stage Band, a funky homage to the likes of James Brown and Bootsy Collin. The members of the band reunite 35 years later to pay homage to Johnson.
We'll see how many of the above we'll actually have a chance to see in our mere three days, but look for reviews and a recap as we get time to post stuff over the weekend. If you follow Twitter.com/CSConFest, you'll be able to get regular updates all weekend.