By Laurie Coker
SXSW, typically a bit of a zoo, never ceases to amaze me. While I get used to the whole nature of things changing downtown mid week, with the music folks coming in, it appears that crazy, wildly dressed and plain outlandish is still the order of the day on Sixth street. Since people watching is one of my favorite pastimes, SXSW affords me plenty of opportunity, between film screenings, to observe all the nutty goings on. Best yet, it doesn’t cost a dime to walk around, and there is always potential to buy a ticket and take in a movie.
Timing for me is always an issue – only one me and far too many films on my list. I moved slowly on day two and three of the festival. Nikki and I, try as we might, haven’t made a midnight film yet. Getting up at the crack of dawn to stand in line for SXpress passes (fast passes into screenings) can make late night films nap zones. We saw Neighbors as planned, which was followed by a Q&A with cast members and filmmakers, which I found it far more entertaining and much funnier than the film, from which target demographic I am far, far, far removed. I found it disgusting, but that was a given. No, what really bothered me were the whole in the story – large enough to drive a 1959 Buick through. I can deal with raunchy humor and crotch jokes when the script and director are smart and clever, but not nastiness and insanity for the sake of gross-outs and shock.
We also watched Predestination, starring Ethan Hawke, which turned out better than I thought, but which still drove me to distraction on its sheer lack of continuity and sick implausibility. Directing brothers Michael and Peter Spierig (twins) do offer a few intriguing surprises, but once I wrapped my head around the cyclical nature of the time jumping story and the concept of what the characters’ reality turned out to be, I left feeling icky and disturbed. Whether it makes sense or, I loved what they the brothers trying to do and I think the cast is excellent, especially Sarah Snook, I simply didn’t get the point. They too held a Q&A, but it didn’t help me make any sense of what I saw.
On the third morning, we headed to the W Hotel, groggy and bleary eyed from the time switch, to a press conference style interview session with director David Gordon Green and Joe stars Nicholas Cage and Tye Sheridan. I truly enjoyed Joe, filmed in and around the Austin area, and the chance for a few inside stories from filming made the early morning worth it. We were fed well while we waited for talent to arrive and I even got Cage to do a David Lynch impression. Good fun. The movie is dark passionate and moving and in addition to the big name stars include many local actors and even folks “off the street.”
Friends told me my biggest mistake of the festival (so far) was missing the screening of Boyhood. I opted instead for networking at Austin Film Festival brunch. Out later this year, Boyhood is local director Richard Linklater’s newest film. With a run time of two hours and forty-three minutes, I felt like I needed to wait for a later screening. Now I am regretting it, the buzz around it is fantastic, but alas one can never return to the past, except in the movies.
Exhausted, I wandered to the Ritz for a showing of The Mend, hoping for the dark comedy promised, and instead, the audience, who left in mass after the screening and before the director could speak, endured nearly two hours of terrible music inappropriate to the story and nonsensical banter and battles between two brothers and their women. I skipped an opportunity to interview The Mend’s stars, because I found absolutely nothing redeeming about it. Nikki napped and I might have nodded off for a few minutes too.
Throughout the day, I made a few new friends, met up with old ones, ate a delicious meal at Thai Passion on 7th Street and spoke, I am sure too unkindly about peoples’ clothing choices, hoping to get recharged for a midnight showing of Home, but couldn’t shake my desire for bed, so thus ended days two of three of the festival for me and Nikki, who ended up sick in bed. And so it goes …