The following is Part Four of a five-part series that chronicles Nick Allen's first journey to SXSW, which also stands as his first time in Texas, ever. Click here to read all about Nick's SXSW saga
I slept in! No express pass waiting, no 8 AM wake-ups, nothing. Instead, it was decided that we would actually take a break from SXSW to explore some Austin culture. Of course, I do not mean a historical tour or anything remotely tourist. Instead, we headed over to a dee-licious small rib joint called Franklin Barbecue, which is not just TSR-recommended, but is said to offer some of the best ribs etc in the entire state of Texas. (This is a strong recommendation: I owe them for that free Coke they let me have.)
While Jeff has photographic evidence of the entire species we eradicated with our meal, I can say that the tray was huge, and that amongst four men, we still couldn’t finish the tray. My rib knowledge is pretty slim, (it’s not something I eat often at all), but it was quite good. I shouldn’t be a food critic.
After Franklin’s, it was back to SXSW territory, and off to another line. Jeff dropped me off at Austin’s Paramount theater for good knows what, and I got in line for what was billed as “Secret Screening.” It didn’t long for me to be in that I found out it was a film called Another Earth, which apparently got everyone all excited at Sundance. For some reason, (perhaps because I thought another option would be better), I stepped out of line and into the next one over for Small, Beautifully Moving Parts. My plans for this movie were squashed when I ran into friend and rising Chicago filmmaker Giancarlo Iannotta, whose short My Big Red Purse was getting its world premiere in the “Doc Shorts 1” category. Along with him was my friend Patrick McCormack, who had moved from Chicago to Vermont recently, but still kept in touch. He wrote the score for Giancarlo's movie. The three of us went over to a small grille across the street from the Paramount.
After watching them eat, it was Another Earth time. Star and co-writer Brit Marling came on stage to introduce it, and was starting to already agree with the “Next Greta Gerwig!” rave I had been hearing about her. (Her other film at SXSW, The Sound of My Voice, was apparently doing very well. Neither Jeff nor I saw it.)
My review for Another Earth can be read here. After the film, we wandered Austin a bit with my friends Giancarlo and Patrick, and I was able to observe the other side of the festival – the filmmaker’s perspective. The promotion for SXSW is very DIY, and at the same time it was ruthless. Everywhere, what seemed like a whole Pandora of trees were scattered throughout SXSW, especially in the convention center, in the form of posters and fliers. Fliers are taped over other fliers, postcards are taped over other fliers, one film of the same category is blocking another film, one film keeps ripping down other posters – it was brutal. I’d follow Giancarlo and Patrick as they found a somewhat vacant spot on a post (or even found a sign of theirs that had been ripped up), and I watched them put up a new poster, or try to fix the current one. Giancarlo and Patrick both had backpacks full of posters, notecards, and even stickers. All for a documentary short that was going to be playing with others, with some of the directors not even in attendance.
After leaving them behind to sift through their promotional chaos, I headed to my next film, Beginners. Of course, I was two hours early, the first in line for the express pass. Nothing exciting happened here, so I’ll spare you the details. This was however my first experience with the Alamo Ritz, which was just as nice as the Alamo Drafthouse. Caught up in the moment, I gave myself a feast.
Beginners was fantastic. It’s my favorite film that I saw this year, and I can’t wait until others get to check it out (which I believe will be this summer). Writer/director Mike Mills was very nervous introducing the movie, and during the Q&A. During his introduction, he brought three random people on stage, and pretended that they were Ewan McGregor, Melanie Laurent, and Christopher Plummer. After the film was over, I saw Mills in the hobby as I was walking out. I gave him the thumbs up. (I would be interviewing the next day).
Next, I was off to my next assignment – save more seats, and wait for another “secret screening.” This time it was the “Ain’t It Cool News” 15th Anniversary Celebration, which sounded compelling from the outside, as the film being shown could’ve been anything – in fact, it could have been something new, something startling, something truly rare that I wouldn’t be able to see where anywhere else except during this occasion.
Nope, it was Dragonslayer. Movie geek guru Harry Knowles kept cooking up the anticipation when he was introducing the movie, and even brought Guillermo del Toro up on the stage to help say how important this movie was both to AICN news, and general geeky. (If I remember correctly, del Toro said something like, “You’re not a f**king film geek if you don’t like this movie.)
Before Dragonslayer, Knowles had arranged for some hokey trailers to be played, all of them in the fantasy realm, which ranged from movies like Kroll to even Dungeons and Dragons. It was more interesting hearing the audience’s reaction – waiting for that one guy whose actually seen a specific movie to make it known to all with a “YEAH!!!” – than it was sitting through the trailers.
Once the movie started, things got truly difficult. It was first not to admit disappointment after Dragonslayer was announced, but it was even more difficult when everything else was so slow, and the print that they used was relatively crummy. Ten minutes or so in, we decided to bail. Unfortunately, as I was walking out, one of the people I passed was Harry Knowles (who said on his post concerning the screening that he counted 76 walkouts).
When you go to a festival like SXSW, it should never be wrong to choose a new movie over an old one, no matter how niche it is, or how much credibility one is supposed to have if you can sit through it. And I’m much happier with the decision we made, because were it not for our walking out of Dragonslayer, I would have never discovered my other absolute favorite SXSW film, and current, “Oh My God I Hope This Gets Distributed Wide Soon” obsession, the almighty film, The FP.
Something special was going on when the “introduction” before the film began with a Four-Loko drinking contest. It was five members of the audience versus five from the cast & crew. The FP people won, though it looked close.
I’ll steal this line from a related tweet I read: “The FP was OFF THE HOOK.” Apparently, I laughed louder and more obnoxiously than I did with The FP than I did Super. And contrary to other peoples’ experiences, I enjoyed the heckling that came from the back of the theater, from the mouth of someone who actually worked on the movie. It made things even more crazy, (as they should be) and went nicely with the two beers that I felt I needed to accurately connect with this art.
The filmmakers had Spaghettios sandwiched by Eggo waffles passed around to each audience member, in reference to a random line in the movie (I won’t bother spoil the dialogue, at least here). I didn’t eat mine until the end. The woman next to me left, said I could have hers, and so I did. Jeff laughed at me.
Video of the Four Loko drinking contest before the screening of The FP. (Language NSFW)