Saturday was a very busy day here at SXSW. We were up absurdly late on Friday night, and then awakened at 8AM by a car alarm going off outside our window, followed by all four of my kids' soccer coaches calling me from OKC to let me know that today's games were canceled due to cold weather. Thanks, guys, but I'm in Austin. After the panel this morning, I grabbed lunch with filmmaker AJ Schnack (Kurt Cobain: About a Son), who also writes a very excellent blog called All These Wonderful Things.
We gabbed about documentaries, traveling for film fests, balancing work and family, and lots of other stuff; he's a supremely nice guy and it's always fun chatting with someone who's as big a dork for documentary films as I am. Our lunch ran long due to crowds at all the area restaurants, so I missed the screening of We Are Wizards and had to bump it out to a later day in the fest.
In the afternoon, the Cinematical posse hung out with former EIC Karina Longworth and the Spout crew at Spout's happy hour party. The happy hour was quite packed with attendees, mostly filmmakers, actors and film journalists. Nice crowd, but not annoyingly packed, open bar, good snacks and great conversation. I was supposed to see Sex Positive after that, but we ended up hanging out there so long I missed that one too, and also had to bump it out for later in the fest.
I'm finding it harder at this fest to adhere to the strict schedule I keep for myself at Sundance and other fests; there's just so much going on all the time here that it's practically impossible to plan very far ahead. Having a more flexible schedule for myself is kind of nice for a change, but my anxiety is now tripping a bit as I look at tomorrow's schedule, heavily weighted with five screenings. My eyeballs will be burning out of my head by the end of the day.
Erik, Melanie and I went to see Mister Lonely at the beautiful, brand-new Alamo Ritz. The film is directed by Harmony Korine and stars Diego Luna (Y tu Mama Tambien, Milk) as a Michael Jackson impersonator and Werner Herzog as a priest (yes, seriously). More on the film later, but can I just say here that I love the concept of eat-in movie theaters? Seriously, every town should have a theater where you can order a salad or a sandwich and fries with your flick. The $5 milkshake was the best I've ever had, but my body reacts to sugar like crack, so that was my one sweet splurge of the fest.
After Mister Lonely we ran over to the Paramount to catch Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. We've already reviewed that film, but I'll chime in here my agreement with the general consensus that this film is going to play really well to fans of the first Harold and Kumar film. I don't have quantifiable data to back this up, but I'm pretty certain that at least 80% of the audience was completely baked for the screening, because they laughed hysterically throughout the film, even in the parts that weren't especially funny.
The films strongest point is the cast. Kal Penn and John Cho have a great chemistry together that feels like Cheech and Chong had love children with Felix Unger and Oscar Madison, and Neil Patrick Harris has really broken out of his Doogie Howser mold with these films. What's not to like about NPH, with a perfectly straight face, chomping 'shrooms and swaggering around a brothel? Doogie would never engage in that kind of behavior, but Harris has a great, self-deprecating sense of humor that makes his moments on-screen among the best in the film. It's not going to win any Oscars, and the entire premise is utterly absurd, but it will please Harold and Kumar fans well enough that if the franchise wants to make it a trifecta, they'll probably be able to pull it off.
Wrapped up the day with a lovely time catching up with film critic Elvis Mitchell (here in town for his film, The Black List, and a Conversation with Billy Bob Thornton), followed by a brief 2AM pit stop at Taco Cabana for a little late-night sustenance before hitting the sack. The next three days are packed with back-to-back films (no, really, I AM going to see some more films) for me; keep checking back for more SXSW coverage from the Cinematical gang.