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SXSW 2011 – Day Three: ‘Natural Selection,’ The Alamo Drafthouse Theater, Rainn Wilson Strikes Back (Against Jeff Bayer)

The following is Part 3 of a five-part series chronicling Nick Allen’s first journey into the unknown lands of SXSW.

Click here to read all about Nick’s SXSW saga

  • Complete Coverage of SXSW Film 2011
  • My SXSW Sunday started with any proper festival beginning – more line waiting. This time, the express pass line waiting was slightly different. 1.) I ate breakfast (a ham and cheese sandwich that cost me two legs) 2.) I was joined by Jeff, who was watching “Boardwalk Empire” on his laptop, 3.) A very “exhausted” Doug Benson was in line, wearing a Zombieland cap and 4.) We were harassed by a sassy older woman who threatened to hunt me down and kill me if I took away her Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop pass (or maybe that’s just how she flirts).

    I received my express passes as planned, and decided to waste no more time. While I had lost my chance to see a Saturday morning movie, I wasn’t going to blow it this time. I marched over to Austin’s State Theater and hopped right into a moving line for the curious looking movie Natural Selection. The simple inclusion of Rachael Harris had me on board, along with a poster that seemed to hint at dry comedy.

    Before the screening began, writer/director Robbie Pickering came on stage and muttered in what would be his classic dry and quiet tone, “Welcome to church.” This was fitting as his movie would then go on to use religious characters in strange situations, and it even featured a porno where a character says, “And the meek shall inherit the girth.”

    Post-screening Q&A’s were always terribly awkward at SXSW, but this one was one of the worst. After the film was over, receiving a typical amount of applause, all of those involved walked on stage. When the audience was offered a chance to speak, no one said anything. I tried to help them out by asking what it was like to shoot in an actual church. I shouldn’t have asked Rachael Harris about her performance, or something along those lines (but I guess somebody covered that territory eventually).

    After Natural Selection, I had some time to kill before my impending interview with the writer/director of Super and also the cult-film Slither, James Gunn. I took up most of my killing time by trying to find a bathroom with toilet paper in it. Needless to say, I ran into two stalls that were without toilet paper, and had to venture across the entire convention center, while running over the math in my head – “A total of maybe ten toilet stalls from all men’s bathrooms on this floor X 400 dudes moving in and out of building = terrible planning?”

    Nonetheless, I got Tweet-sized revenge when I spammed the downstairs omnipotent TwitterBoard (#SXSW) with this message: “two man bathrooms in cc don’t have toilet paper. if this saved your butt via tweetboard, then i am your god. retweet this, dorks. #sxsw”

    After making an ass out of myself on a toilet paper journey, it was time to talk to James Gunn. This interview was slightly different in that I’ve never roundtable interviewed (multiple press people for one person) in this form before. While I have certainly done a roundtable with people I didn’t know previously, this setting was really chaotic. I attempted to start a circle motion of questioning with our literal roundtable, but even in the situation of an interview, no one respects a circle – you’d better speak up first, dammit, and get your question in.

    I did speak up, but my nerves of the moment (fearing that I wouldn’t get my questions in) helped me make even more of a fool of myself. When a lunching James Gunn offered us (possibly sarcastically) a fry, I took one. When he moved away his little lunchbox, I foolishly went for a second, which caused him to joke about me.

    I further continued my SXSW self-depreciation by admitting to Gunn that it was I who laughed like a boisterous hyena during a third-act death scene in Super. To which his response was something along the lines of, “That was you!? I’ve shown this to 10,000 people, and you are the first to laugh at that.” He then proceeded to say something about me being f**ked up. I guess that means something when the guy who wrote the tentacle dream sequence of Super tells you you’re not right in the head. But of course, I could do nothing but laugh along with such an honor.

    After my interview with James Gunn, it was time to get back into movie mode. I hopped onto the SXSW shuttle bus, which was air conditioned, played sh***y rock music, and was full of people with business cards networking with one another. I, of course, used this time to continue obsessing about my future schedule. “But what am I going to see on Tuesday?! Oh no!” Apparently it mattered.

    My next film was Detention, the newest movie from Joseph Kahn, the music video director who previously made the wondrous “Fast and Furious on motorcyles” Torque. I have no “relationship” with any real “director” or any person in Hollywood – I am extremely far from that type of prominence. But, Joseph Kahn and I have a special (again, tweet-sized) relationship. Before Kahn re-tweeted a brief write-up I did on Torque a few months ago, I was an admirer of his, especially for the energy of Torque. (He later said he would kick someone in the balls if they ended their Black Swan review with “Bravo!” , as I happened to do so with my own). Needless to say, when Kahn rolled up for the world premiere of his film, I broke my “professional” code and I snapped a few cell phone pictures of him. Meaning they’re on my prehistoric flip phone, and he was on his phone the whole time (possibly tweeting, I haven’t checked). It was glorious.

    Detention was magnificent pop art. That review is on its way, but an extra element about Detention was that I saw it in an Alamo Drafthouse Theater – my new favorite place to see a movie. I could go on for a whole separate post about the greatness of this theater, but I will give the highlights – good food, quiet during-the-movie service, and they even played The Dogway Melody before the film started. No crappy pop songs or dental insurance ads to be seen! It was amazing. Is it possible for a heaven to be inside of heaven?

    The Q&A for Detention was probably the most awkward. Again, I broke the silence by asking the first question. “How do you maintain the energy for the film while editing it?” This was followed by a full explanation as to how the film came to be (but no worries, Joseph Kahn, I would be seriously thrilled to interview you when Detention comes out).

    Next up was Hesher. Though I was taking my usual amount of notes, I split a beer pitcher with Jeff. We enjoyed the movie. Whenever I heard Metallica being used in the art-house film, I got giddy.

    Afterward, we stuck around briefly for the Q&A. Possibly, with some liquid courage, Jeff asked Rainn Wilson (who also has a part in Hesher), as to which superhero he’d like to be. In an angry tone, as direct and hilarious as his bark from the previous night, he proceeded to say, “You’re a dead motherf***er.” Feeling accomplished, Jeff tweeted about it.

    Finally, the night left one more movie for us: the anticipated and hyped up Attack the Block, which Jeff had been trying to see the night before, but opted out of. This was another film (of many) that had its name bouncing around the festival, with people clamoring to get express tickets for it.

    Edgar Wright (director of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) was there to introduce the movie, as he had an executive producing credit on the project. The movie itself was loud, and overrated. Jeff and I walked out after the credits started rolling, and had to go past Edgar Wright. I would have loved to have apologized on behalf of America for our lacking reception to Scott Pilgrim, but I didn’t. I’d experienced enough arse-ry for one day.

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