SXSW FILM FESTIVAL 2010
By Don Simpson | March 18, 2010
The days are surely blowing by fast. Day six of SXSW Film has already come and gone. Next thing I know the festival will be over and I will be back at my day job! But I guess as the saying goes: time flies when you’re having fun. And I am having fun.
Despite all the frustrations this year – primarily not getting into the films that I want to see – I think 2010 has been one of the strongest SXSW Film festivals that I have attended to date (this being my 13th year in attendance).
This is also by far the most badges that I have ever seen at SXSW Film. I suspect this has something to do with the ever-growing amount of Gold Badges (which offers combined access to SXSW Film and Interactive). So either Interactive is becoming more popular and they are crossing over into the Film audiences (which begs the question: are they bored because Interactive does not offer much nighttime programming or just curious?), or the Film audience is crossing over into Interactive. Either way, there are a lot more people trying to squeeze into venues that hold less than 180 people (only the Paramount and Convention Center hold more than 180). As more and more badges appear at SXSW Film, the venues are going to have to find a way to compensate. Several people in line have suggested having a second Convention Center theater (or using a large venue such as La Zona Rosa or Austin Music Hall until the music festival begins). Personally, I hate make-shift venues (the Convention Center is one of the better ones that I have experienced) but I think this is the only option available to SXSW – unless a new downtown theater miraculously appears (we are looking at you Tim League!). Either that, or reduce the number of badges.
But, as usual, I digress…I should be ranting and raving about the day six films…so here it goes…
First off was Audrey the Trainwreck. Did anyone notice that Joe Swanberg (Hannah Takes the Stairs) did not have a film at SXSW 2010? I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but I am fairly certain that this is a sign of the Apocalypse. But, at least Swanberg did arrive in Austin this year (via celluloid only – as far as I know) by way of a bit part as Jeremy in Frank V. Ross’ Audrey the Trainwreck. This is a story of two people caught in repetitive routines: an ATM parts purchaser named Ron (Anthony J. Baker) and Stacy (Alexi Wasser), a express mail courier. They meet via an Internet dating service (Stacy is one of the many dates that Ron attempts) and they eventually, albeit awkwardly, fall for one another. Audrey the Trainwreck encapsulates the boring and monotonous lifestyle that people can easily fall into – working jobs that they hate during the day, hanging around the same friends every night. I really enjoyed Audrey the Trainwreck, but since the film itself becomes what some might see as a monotonous routine I suspect that this will not be everyone’s cup of tea.
I had heard a lot of buzz about Nic Whitfield’s Skeletons so this is one that I squeezed into my schedule and I am very glad that I did. To synopsize this film in one short paragraph will be practically impossible, so instead I will keep this entirely superficial. Bennett (Andrew Buckley) and Davis (Ed Gaughan) are exorcists who quite literally remove the proverbial skeletons from people’s closets. After a few routine business calls, they find themselves at Jane’s (Paprika Steen) house where they are assigned the task of finding her missing husband. For now, let’s just say that Skeletons is a brain-teasing comedy that is quite funny (if you like British humor) with highly intelligent dialog and a plot that requires some mental gymnastics on the part of the viewer.
Another much buzzed about film this festival is Cherry – a coming of age story about Aaron, a 17 year old boy, who upon entering an Ivy League school finds himself infatuated with a troubled 30-something female classmate, Linda (Laura Allen); all the while, Linda’s 14 year daughter Beth (Brittany Robertson) falls in love with Aaron. So, yes, essentially it is a modern/alternate take on The Graduate. Did I mention that Aaron is a virgin? Thanks to Linda, Beth and his classmates, Aaron quickly matures into an independent man.
Next on my list was Get Low – which, to be honest, was more of a time-filler for my schedule than anything. From the brief synopsis in the SXSW Film program, I knew exactly what I was in store for and I was not very excited about it: a relatively low-budget drama by a first-time director Aaron Schneider – a UT grad) featuring three acting powerhouses (Robert Duvall, Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek – all of whom attended the screening at the Paramount). Duvall, Murray and Spacek all did the best they could with a lackluster script and tiresome plot. Even though this one has already been picked up by Sony Pictures Classics, I see this one having a limited theatrical run and then going straight to DVD.
Lastly – on my first five-film day of SXSW 2010 (!) – was the exquisite Swiss sci-fi film Cargo. I saw this one with Dave and we were both a bit tired, so a 2-hour long meditative (read: slow) sci-fi film with very little action was probably not our best choice of screenings to help keep us awake (the Guinness probably didn’t help matters either). But the more I think about Cargo, the more I like it. Sure, it is highly derivative (and very referential) of Alien, 2001 and Solaris as well as several others; but if you are going to reference past sci-fi, these are all great choices. And the resulting mash-up of the various sci-fi masterpieces is rather unique – and extremely cerebral. I am hoping that Cargo gets a theatrical release in the U.S. because I would really love to see it while I was more awake.