South by South West is a monster of a film festival, with well over 100 feature films playing over the course of a single week. And now that it's come and gone, we can step back, take a breather and reflect on all the insanity we saw and participated in that week. So, without further delay, here is our recap of the over 30 films and events Cinematical's covered from this year's fest.
Music Docs Bring The Noise at 24 Beats Per Second by David Ehrlich:
"For a huge music fan who simply doesn't have a moment to spare from the film portion of the conference, this series of music documentaries is the next best thing on offer-- and this year that offer wound up being pretty damn good, serving up trills and triumphs in equal measure. But of the films that I was able to catch amidst the madness, it was the most reserved and humble among them that struck the deepest chord (pun!)"
Eat My Shorts: SXSW 2011 Shorts and Mediums by Christopher Campbell
"While none of those favorites are on the web, a great many SXSW '11 shorts are -- especially from the program of films directed by Texan high schoolers -- so I've curated ten I think you'll enjoy and link to those others I've managed to find online."
Spike Jonze & Romain Gavras Turn Music Videos Into Masterpieces by David Ehrlich:
"Gavras' visual accompaniment to M.I.A.'s "Born Free" was less a music video than it was a full-fledged short film, a violent 9-minute narrative in which all the redheads of a dusty dystopian city were rounded up and brutally murdered in a style so sadistic it sooner recalls 'Rambo' than Orwell. Incidentally, 'Our Day Will Come' is one of two SXSW movies that slowed and elucidated the worlds they compliment, exploding their music videos into something different entirely, and in the process illustrating how some stories are simply too stirring to leave alone."
Six Favorite Documentaries by Christopher Campbell
Chris Campbell picks his six favorite (previously uncovered) documentaries from SXSW.
Reviewing All the Fantastic Midnight Movies by Peter Martin
Pete Martin offers up an easily digestible look at the ten midnight films at SXSW and where you may be able to see them next: 'Hobo With a Shotgun,' 'Insidious,' 'The Divide,' 'Phase 7,' 'Attack the Block,' 'Little Deaths,' 'Cold Sweat,' 'The FP,' 'George the Hedgehog' and 'Kill List.'
Even Local Films Are Bigger In Texas by David Ehrlich:
"Instead, the Lone Star State selections are tossed right in with the Sundance hits and genre riots, enjoying prime time screenings at some of the festival's largest venues, including the enormous (and enormously uncomfortable) Paramount Theater. It's a rare and rewarding opportunity for both filmmakers and adventurous festival-goers alike, and the four selections I caught seem to suggest that the brightest stars in Texas are only just starting to shine."
24 Hours At SXSW: A Personal Tour Through The World's Most Fun Film Fest by David Ehrlich
"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."
Ultimate SXSW Guide: Everything You Need to Know About the Film Venues by Jette Kernion
"The SXSW Film Festival has a whopping eight venues for moviegoing this year. They range in size and style from the cozy Alamo Ritz second theater to the temporary but convenient Vimeo Theater in the Austin Convention Center to the majestic Paramount. Some theaters are walking distance from the convention center and from one another, some are remote satellite venues aimed at pleasing Austin filmgoers. If you're trying to figure out how to see six movies a day, or how to manage meals and parties around a few films you're dying to watch, this guide can help you get organized ... at least a little."
10 SXSW '11 Films We've Seen and Highly Recommend by Erik Childress
"With over 120 films to choose from in just nine days at the 2011 South by Southwest Film Festival, even the most experienced planner will be unable to take in all of them. That is just simple math. Sometimes you just have to take a page from Neil ... Page: "You have to discriminate. You choose things that are funny or mildly amusing." So you can look over the SXSW catalog descriptions and make up your mind, or you can take the word of some trusted critics who have a heads-up and start from there."
'Small, Beautifully Moving Parts' by Jette Kernion
"'Small, Beautifully Moving Parts' filmmakers Annie Howell and Lisa Robinson have given me exactly what I want from a drama about women: smart characters who aren't restrained by stereotypes and who behave believably if not predictably, with a sense of humor that isn't mean. Here's hoping that the filmmakers have the opportunity to share this movie with as many people -- male and female -- as possible."
'Our Day Will Come' by William Goss
"'Our Day Will Come' is truly transportive filmmaking, a window into a world only one degree off from our own, laden with absurdist charms and about as hypnotic and brash as a klaxon. Although it's not for all tastes, it certainly stands out as a darkly funny, oddly moving look at two individuals looking for a fight, and for a home to call their own."
'The Catechism Cataclysm' by John Gholson
"'The Catechism Cataclysm' feels a tiny bit like 'A Serious Man's' spiritual cousin, portraying our daily lives as a series of improbably awful challenges from a distant God. There's no real measure of control, no matter how "good" we are. Billy and Robbie carry the weight of that burden in different ways, and Rohal handles those characters' feelings as authentic, even when the comedy gets really out there. There's more than just idiocy happening here; these are real people."
'Beginners' by William Goss
"Alas, virtually every moment of introspective tenderness mustered up by this trio ends up undermined by Mills' super-precious execution, each performance fragmented by all the detours and details that couldn't simply be omitted in favor of graceful emotional maturation. This is 2011, and I, for one, don't think it's too much to ask that films like 'Beginners' be based on screenplays and not scrapbooks."
'Kill List' by William Goss
"'Kill List' works, whether as a domestic drama, a hitman thriller or something more sinister than either of those. Its ambiguity may be a bit maddening, but the ensemble delivers uniformly gripping performances and it's directed with the sure hand of a man who knows precisely which corners of darkness he wants to take his audience."
'F*** My Life' by Jette Kernion
"One of the nicer surprises of SXSW this year was discovering that the movie 'F*** My Life' ('Que Pena Tu Vida'), despite the title, was a downright sweet and practically adorable romantic comedy. Chilean writer/director Nicolas Lopez's previous film was a comic-book superhero film, 'Santos,' and this is quite different in story but with the same light touch."
'Conan O'Brien Can't Stop' by Christopher Campbell
"One of the highlights of the SXSW film festival is seeing a sold out comedy at the Paramount Theater. 1200 people laughing together is just a wonderful thing. Even better, for me, though, is seeing so many people in one room together for a documentary, as was the case for 'Conan O'Brien Can't Stop.' It's one of a few docs playing twice in such a big room this week, and (nothing against the also-great 'The Interrupters' and 'Senna') surely it's the most popular of the three."
'A Bag of Hammers' by David Ehrlich
"Ultimately, 'A Bag of Hammers' is just a touch too fragile to hit that hard. The film makes an admirable attempt to transition its twin heroes from scoundrels to saviors without sacrificing their cool, but for all of its irreverent energy this movie about perpetual children is overeager to grow up. The fact that the endless end credits are stuffed with lovely scenes that didn't fit in the film cements the feeling that Crano brought all the right tools for the job, he just doesn't quite know how to use them yet. With friends like Rebecca Hall, Jason Ritter and one increasingly famous surprise guest, this young filmmaker will probably getting another whack at it real soon."
'The Beaver' by William Goss
"It seems like a marvel that 'The Beaver' actually exists. Before any of Mel Gibson's off-screen behavior even happened, the suggestion that an A-list star would willingly play opposite a hand puppet seemed more like a fake film than a legitimate premise. Then again, there was a time when the likelihood of seeing Jimmy Stewart star opposite a giant, invisible rabbit had to have seemed equally spare."
'Fightville' by Eugene Novikov
"Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein's 'Fightville,' which examines the unabating mixed martial arts craze, is an exhilarating sports documentary and a levelheaded, piercingly intelligent treatment of a touchy subject. It humanizes and makes sense of a sport that, for all I knew, consisted of putting two men in a cage and setting them loose to beat the crap out of each other to the delight of hordes of bloodthirsty goons. 'Fightville' demolishes that preconception. Not since Chris Bell's 'Bigger Stronger Faster*' has a documentary done more to contribute to an ongoing discussion about sports."
'The Dish and the Spoon' by Eugene Novikov
"The title is a reference to "Hey Diddle Diddle," the classic nursery rhyme: "Hey diddle diddle / the Cat and the fiddle / the Cow jumped over the moon / The little Dog laughed to see such sport / and the Dish ran away with the Spoon." If this all sounds insufferably precious, well -- it is, sort of, or it could have been. It helps that 'The Dish and the Spoon' is not a romance; Rose and her new friend aren't soul mates and they don't become lovers. Instead, they are two people who happen to meet each other's emotional needs at this one precise moment. In some ways, 'The Dish and the Spoon''s closest cousin may be 'Lost in Translation': This is a movie about making a meaningful but necessarily temporary connection."
'Becoming Santa' by John Gholson
"'Becoming Santa' has the goods to become an instant Holiday classic. It's charming, informative, and, best of all, really funny. Think 'Best Worst Movie' for the Christmas season, and you have a pretty good idea of what Myers has cooked up here. As a documentarian, he's out to entertain, first and foremost. It's Sanderson's approach to Santa Claus as well, and, because of that, they make a great pair."
'Bridesmaids' by William Goss
"More often than not, though, 'Bridesmaids' strikes a proper balance between its potty mouths and sleeve-set heart. It's slack in pacing but raucous in tone and held together throughout by Wiig's spotlight turn. And do you really want to know why this isn't the new 'Hangover'? These ladies don't even make it to Vegas."
'You Instead' by Peter Martin
"At first, it seems unbelievably mean-spirited for Adam, who's already a huge star, to undermine Morello in the middle of a song on which she's singing the lead vocals. Her band mates glare at him, but they can't do anything to stop it. Then Adam progresses from plunking a single note to playing chords and then belting out "Tainted Love" as The Dirty Pinks are still playing their song, finally forcing them to segue into "Tainted Love." It's outrageous, it's selfish, it's immature, it infuriates the band -- and the crowd loves it. Begrudgingly, Morello loves it too. Adam and Morello, it turns out, make beautiful music together, and so does 'You Instead.'
'Caught Inside' by Peter Hall
"In practice, 'Caught Inside' is an increasingly heated pressure cooker of a thriller; one that impresses with restraint and a disarming lack of malice. It's easy to imagine that a film with this premise, especially one hailing from a country that has been pumping out some fairly savage horror movies of late, will devolve into a waterborne slasher, but that's not the case here. And in addition to a smooth understanding of pace and structure, Blaiklock's film boasts an integral ingredient that most thrillers lack: realism."
'Attack the Block' by Peter Hall
"Some may complain about Cornish's readiness to assault your eyes and eardrums with zero warning, but a few loud bolts from the shadows still shouldn't result in anyone walking away unimpressed. In fact, 'Attack the Block' is so fast paced, the jolts so visceral and the energy so contagious, no one of the right mindset should be walking away from it at all; they should be stumbling away, intoxicated by its perfect genre high."
'The Innkeepers' by Peter Hall
"Perhaps what's most amazing about 'The Innkeepers', however, isn't that West can use some of the best horror technicians/artists in the business to scare you, rather that he can create characters this emotionally resonant. Claire and Luke, both beautifully realized by their respective actors, aren't just types, they're us; relateable and wholly believable people who behave not just plausibly, but rationally. Though it's externalized on us, the actual horror here is completely subservient to the characters, making the events in 'The Innkeepers' less about what is going to scare the audience and more about what scares Claire and Luke. It's this profound synchronicity between what the audience thinks and feels and what the characters feel - a synchronicity all too often missing from most horror movies - that elevate West's already remarkable instincts even higher."
'Girl Walks Into a Bar' by Scott Weinberg
"Although most of the stops are mere transitions or exposition volleys, there's something impressively "quick" about 'Girl Walks Into a Bar.' The film is awash in legitimately cool ideas about empowered women, but it's Gutierrez' screenplay (and / or some rather fine improvisational work on behalf of the gigantic ensemble) that allows the tangentially-connected anecdotes to come together as a whole. At its best moments, the flick feels like a foul-mouthed (yet still insightful) Woody Allen piece, but 'Girl Walks Into a Bar' also brings welcome dashes of film noir and highly-stylized banter to the equation."
'The City Dark' by Christopher Campbell
"More entertaining than enlightening, and at many times gorgeous to look at, as long as there's nothing for you to watch in the night sky anymore, 'The City Dark' is worth viewing as a substitute for stargazing, even if that might make you a bit sad on multiple levels to do so (aren't you glad I didn't just say, "don't be in the dark about this subject, so go see it!"?)."
'Source Code' by Scott Weinberg
"We've had a fine streak of enjoyably varied science fiction flicks lately, from the surprisingly good 'The Adjustment Bureau' and the admirably insane 'Battle Los Angeles' (next week's 'Limitless' is also pretty damn cool), and 'Source Code' looks to continue that streak. It's hard to say how much of a bankable audience is still out there for "smaller" sci-fi flicks like 'Source Code,' but speaking as only one massive fan of the genre, I'm very pleased that the studios still throw some money at projects like this one."
Joe Cornish, 'Attack the Block'
"Well I like that. As I said last night, that's how movies used to be. When I saw 'Predator' I had no idea it was an alien. I saw it in Paris subtitled and I had no idea, I thought it was a war movie. And he pays that creature out so slowly; the sound, the blood, the laser sight, the cloaking device, the wrist, the jaw. You don't see the whole thing until the end and it blew my tits off and you just don't get that anymore."
Greg Mottola, 'Paul'
"Well, you don't want to offend anyone who's an atheist, because that's most of the world, or at least most of America. We did think about it a lot and we didn't take it entirely lightly – and it made me laugh because I didn't know it was coming the first time I read it. Simon hadn't told me that was an element of the script, and it made me think of this conversation with friends where I would say, "if you saw a movie like 'The Omen' or 'Rosemary's Baby' where the Devil is proven to exist, why doesn't anyone ever say, 'well, the plus side is that there must be a God.'" No one ever stops to say that, and I thought this was really funny,"
Duncan Jones, 'Source Code'
Emily Hagins, 'My Sucky Teen Romance'
"I know what you mean, and I try to avoid that, so my first draft of a script will be a lot bigger in concept. At different points in pre-production, I thought I'd have a bigger budget to work with so it didn't really change that much. Closer to the time I wanted to film, I was getting a better sense of what our budget would actually be, and because the script was always so close to my heart, I didn't want to compromise anything. With what you're saying, I don't want to put a lot of effort into something and film something, if it's not worth that time staying up for thirty-six hours."