Despite what it might look like in downtown Austin right now, I would have to imagine that not every living human on the planet is actually at SXSW. Logistically, I mean, you'd think that one or two of the world's several billion people didn't make it down here this year. So for those of you who aren't in Texas for your own experience, I invite you to join along with mine.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
12:01 A.M. Edgar Wright is completely oblivious to the giant spider behind him. I'm packed into the world famous Alamo Drafthouse for the world premiere of Joe Cornish's 'Attack the Block,' and the film's executive producer is introducing the flick up on stage. A rogue arachnid has crawled over the projector, and the huge eight-legged shadow projected behind Wright is making the audience giggle. This will be the last time that Wright looks like a fool, tonight.
12:03 A.M. I have no clue what 'Attack the Block' is about, but I know I just waited in line for two hours to find out. I suspect a beer will help me make sense of things, so I ask one of the concession ninjas to bring me a pint of the local lager. I hope this doesn't suck.
12:10 A.M. It is abundantly clear that this doesn't suck.
1:05 A.M. The protagonist is a 15-year-old inner-city kid named Moses who helps his friends escape from their home (once it's overrun by hostile aliens), and I can't help but think that this is somehow the greatest Passover movie ever made (you know, cause there are so many).
1:40 A.M. We spill onto 6th Street, which is like a combination between Comic-Con and Mardi Gras. I spot an Internet friend, and describe 'Attack the Block' as "'Super 8' meets 'Fish Tank.'" Of all the possible points of comparison I just used an esoteric English film and a movie that no one's seen yet -- my gift for analogies is clearly unparalleled.
1:59 A.M. SXSW roommate Matt Patches and I begin our five-minute walk to the hotel.
3:04 A.M. SXSW roommate Matt Patches and I arrive at our hotel. To paraphrase Super, "Shut up, Daylight Savings."
3:15 A.M. Someone is having very loud sex on our floor (of the hotel) -- perhaps the "Interactive" portion of SXSW is more fun than advertised.
8:00 A.M. And we're up! Well, Patches is wide awake, our other roommate Erin McCarthy (of Popular Mechanics) is gearing up for a run, and I am planning to murder them both.
8:01 A.M. I deduce that sleep requires less energy than murder, so I decide to get some more of that, instead.
9:28 A.M. We're at the end of a snaking line on the fourth floor of the Austin Convention Center. Everyone is lined up to snag Sxxpress Passes, which effectively allow you to cut the line at screenings.
9:35 A.M. Everyone is so friendly here: The couple in front of me are film marketers from Boston, and the wife asks to "Bump" with me. I've never bumped before and her husband is standing right there, but you only live once so I oblige. I'm relieved when it turns out she just wants to smash her iPhone into my iPhone which is made out of pure glass and has no warranty for physical damage.
9:55 A.M. Sxxpress passes mean frantically revising your schedule. It's not pretty:
10:20 A.M. I retreat to the hotel and try to write about the Lone Star State sidebar, which is a line-up comprised entirely of films from Texas. I deduce that sleep requires less energy than trying to write nice things about tiny, well-intentioned movies that are pointless to smack around in public, so I decide to get some more of that.
10:22 A.M. Before I can sleep, the Twitter account of one of those small Texan films (@WussMovie) begins following me. My reaction to their films improves from "reserved appreciation" to "nervously reserved appreciation."
1:20 P.M. I'm way too early for my first film of the day, so I stop into a local coffee shop and snap super high-res photos of the blogger graffiti I find in the bathroom.
1:55 P.M. And I'm back in the Ritz for 'Sound it Out,' a documentary about the last surviving record store in Teesside, North East England. A woman who goes by the name of Saint Saviour is unassumingly sitting at a keyboard beneath the screen, belting out a cover of "Love Will Tear Us Apart."
2:10 P.M. I think it's too early for a mid-movie beer, but the rest of the crowd seems to disagree. I get a scalding hot cappuccino in a mug, and almost send myself to the burn victims' ward while drinking it in the darkness.
3:35 P.M. That was delightful, like 'High Fidelity' meets 'Waiting for Guffman.' Saint Saviour appears in the film, and I enjoy her music so much that I will later visit a Myspace page on purpose in order to hear more. The owner of the record store is too shy to join the Q&A, but the crowd chants his name and he takes the stage. As modest and regular a guy as you'll ever meet, it's remarkable to watch him step into the spotlight for what might be the first time in his life.
4:11 P.M. I run into the cast of 'My Sucky Teen Romance' and am instantly starstruck. I contemplate snapping a paparazzi photo, but then I contemplate not being a total creep. By the time I'm done contemplating, they're already gone. I end up contemplating a pistachio muffin.
4:32 P.M. @SaintSaviour follows me on Twitter. The world moves fast, these days.
4:45 P.M. I stand outside the Paramount and watch an employee of the theater update the marquee. The line for the 6:30 screening of Takashi Miike's '13 Assassins' is already starting to form, but with my Sxxpress pass I am ludicrously early.
6:55 P.M. The Paramount Theater seats 1,200 people, and not one of them comfortably. It's unquestionably the worst film venue of SXSW, it's freezing, the movie is now 25 minutes late and everyone is worried that they're not gonna make it to their next movie.
7:05 P.M. Fest honcho Janet Pierson announces that Miike won't be attending the screening due to the tragic earthquake in Japan, and suddenly our worries are put into their proper context. Also, we're about to see two hours of Takashi Miike riffing on Akira Kurosawa, so at the end of the day all's well in Texas.
7:20 P.M. This movie has more characters committing hara-kiri than it does characters not committing hara-kiri.
8:45 P.M. It is deeply painful that this movie is only very good.
9:02 P.M. I tear out of the Paramount muttering something about having to "Get to 'The Future.'" I sprint at a full gallop from the Paramount to the Ritz, bowling over several drunks, children and drunk children along the way. In my rush to get from one reverent film audience to another, I have bobbed and weaved through throngs of people from all walks of life. That's part of the beauty of SXSW: Everyone doing their own thing together.
9:03 P.M. I've been in Texas for 72 hours, and while I don't have a scale with me, I assume that I've gained roughly 93 pounds so far -- this 4-block sprint leaves me on death's door.
9:05 P.M. I plop down into the last empty seat for Miranda July's 'The Future.' In retrospect, I wish that I had realized I was sitting next to Ellen Page before I decided to mumble out loud about how sweaty I am. SXSW Lesson #294: Always make sure Ellen Page isn't next to you before you start talking to yourself about how disgusting you are.
9:06 P.M. I Think to myself, "In 'The Future,' everyone will sit next to someone famous for 90 minutes." Tempted to share my cleverness with Ellen Page, but decide to share it with Twitter instead.
9:07 P.M. Twitter ignores my tweet like it's a film in the narrative competition at SXSW.
9:31 P.M. This movie begins with a talking cat voicing its existential crisis -- it is instantly my favorite film of the festival.
11:02 P.M. Miranda July takes the stage -- to the 185 people in the crowd, this spritely little artist might as well be Justin Bieber.
11:09 P.M. I'm starting to suspect that this Miranda July character might actually just be Paula Poundstone trying to reinvent herself:
11:37 P.M. I book it back over to the Paramount for Paul Feig's 'Bridesmaids,' where I run into my friend Sophia, who's here with her excellent directorial debut, 'Green.' She's just gotten out of Joe Swanberg's 'Silver Bullets.'
12:30 A.M. 'Bridesmaids' is running late, and it's eerily timed to begin at the exact moment that I've lost all will to live.
12:35 A.M. This movie is hilarious!
1:15 A.M. This movie is not hilarious.
2:15 A.M. I wish I were watching Louis C.K.'s 'Hilarious.'
2:32 A.M. This Kristen Wiig biopic is starting to feel like the 'Heaven's Gate' of romantic comedies.
2:40 A.M. Joe Swanberg has made three features since this movie started.
2:45 A.M. Well, that was probably a funny movie (with a confused tone and an endless third act), but given that it was my 14th film in 3 days I was just way too wiped to enjoy it.
That was actually 26 hours, and in 5 hours this will all begin again. Tomorrow there will be a secret screening, at which the people behind me in line will insist that we're seeing 'Thor.' I'll point out that 'Another Earth' star Brit Marling is on the sidewalk and so the rumors that the film is 'Another Earth' are looking to be true, and they will insist that Brit Marling is probably just a big fan of 'Thor.' I'll see a panel created by Will Goss about journalistic ethics, it'll be another day of everything all of the time, and again I'll marvel at how I can be so exhausted and yet so excited for whatever might happen next.
Follow along on Twitter if you care to join me.