SXSW 2013: ScreenAnarchy Raises the Curtain with Our Top 20 Picks
Today is the big day and Austin is already teeming with rabid film fans, ready to devour another year's worth of wonderful SXSW film programming. In case you missed it, our preview series has already taken a look at the Headliners and Competition slates, the Narrative Spotlight, Documentary Spotlight, and Visions programs, and the Midnight, 24BPS, SX Global, and Festival Faves sections. Now we raise the curtain with a few words and top picks from the festival crew. Keep your eyes glued to Twitch's Festival Hub and follow us on Twitter for all the latest: @ScreenAnarchy | @EricDSnider | @peteramartin | @scottEweinberg | @jtjarzemsky | @lainnafader | @RylandAldrich
After moving to Texas, I attended my first SXSW in 2008, so this will be my sixth experience. My viewing priorities have usually been determined by the outlets for which I'm providing coverage; the downside is that I often have to skip highly-recommended movies -- because they've already been reviewed -- in favor of movies that no one has seen yet. But that's also the upside! I love discovering new talent and new filmmakers, which renews my enthusiasm every year.
The directorial debut of writer E.L. Katz, which could mean either lightning in a bottle or a bottle you want to smash, but the cast, including Pat Healy, Sara Paxton, and Amanda Fuller, looks strong, the premise -- new dad meets wealthy couple offering "path to financial security" -- sounds vague in the sinister sense, and a new teaser actually teases, rather than lay everything out. I'm in.
My enthusiasm is based on August Evening, the low-key, evocative, lovely-looking, and gut-rubbing debut of writer/director Chris Eska. Low-budget period pieces -- this one is set during the Civil War -- are often distractingly unconvincing, but I trust that Eska will keep the characters to the foreground and deliver another winner.
Having spent far more hours than I care to admit recording and cataloguing my family's home video library, I have great admiration for those hardy souls who continue carrying the torch, so I'm hoping this documentary will provide insight into the wide and wacky world of videotape.
Frankly, I'm not wild about spending an entire movie at a college party, so I'm secretly hoping that the "supernatural phenomenon" will kill off all the unlikable characters and then provide a thrill ride for the plucky survivors. Also, director Dennis Iliadis' remake of Last House on the Left was about 65-75% of a truly nasty movie that was undermined by (probably) other forces, so that's it this movie's favor too.
Scott is a film critic for FEARnet and featured critic here at ScreenAnarchy.
I have a very good feeling about this one. And since I often have very bad feelings about horror remakes, I like those odds.
HOLY GHOST PEOPLE
This is a missing person thriller that delves into one of those creepy snake-handling cults. The trailer is sort of an ass-kicker.
BIG ASS SPIDER
I know I'm supposed to be a grown-up and all, but I can't lie, I sorta live for movies about giant spiders. Plus this one has a cool cast.
I've never seen a Vincenzo Natali film that I haven't liked, and I hope this won't be the first.
Hello, all you Twitchy Readers out there. This is John Jarzemsky, reporting for my second (CONSECUTIVE BOOYAH) year covering SXSW film for ScreenAnarchy. I'm a former Austin resident, making my first return as the prodigal son from the hurricane-soaked streets of New York City. There will be breakfast tacos, booze, but first and foremost, there will be movies. Here's what's caught my eye in 2013:
Love him or hate him, Harmony Korine (Gummo, Mr. Lonely, Trash Humpers) always delivers when it comes to originality. I didn't need much for this flick to spark my interest: Korine+Franco+Selena Gomez+a whole bunch of guns, drugs, and bad stuff? I'm in. I am currently legally incapable of addressing whether or not the plot of this movie speaks to me on a personal level, but after the red-band trailer that dropped recently, I'm confident that Mr. Korine is going to take us on quite a ride.
As you might have guessed, I'm a sucker for anything a little weird that looks to push the envelope a bit, or that's just out to share a rollicking good time. Milo, a horror romp about a tiny demon living inside a man's colon, seems like it could strike gold in all quadrants.
If you're the sort of person who reads up on a film blogger's pre-festival attack plan, then you should be no stranger to the name John Milius. The man who brought us such genre classics as Conan the Barbarian and Red Dawn is as well-known for his off-screen, atypical of Hollywood personality (Milius is a self-described "Zen Anarchist" and a prominent right wing voice) as he is for his films.
Clearly, I have a thing for horror. One of the toasts of the festival circuit last year was the innovative and wonderful V/H/S, a collection of vignettes from noted indie horror maestros that left me on the edge of my seat. This follow-up features work by the Gareth Evans, who brought us last year's incomparable The Raid, along with Hobo with a Shotgun visionary Jason Eisner.
Josh here, SXSW virgin! Even though I'm only 3 hours away in Dallas, SXSW has eluded me for years. Thanks to fortuitous circumstances this year I'll be a part of Team ScreenAnarchy on the tail end of the festival. I tend to choose my films based on past success of filmmakers and/or impressions from posters/trailers. I don't like to dig too deep before seeing the movies so my reaction can be as pure as possible. That being said, here are my four most anticipated films that I'll be seeing at this year's SXSW.
I AM DIVINE
I have been a John Waters nut since I was a kid. I remember seeing Cry Baby when I was 11 and working my way backward through his filmography during my teenage years. It was then that I fell in love with Divine and the unique symbiosis that his relationship with John Waters created on screen. Director Jeffrey Schwarz is one of the great unsung documentarians, and I can't wait to see this one on the big screen!
Director Calvin Lee Reeder is a very divisive character in the indie film scene today. His films are abstract and nigh impenetrable, perplexing to audiences and critics alike. However, if you get it, you fucking get it, and I love his work. This sophomore feature follow up to my 2011 top ten film, The Oregonian, is high on my list of must-see films for 2013. Come on Ramblers, let's get Ramblin'!
KISS OF THE DAMNED
No idea what to expect with this one. It's a horror movie with a fantastic poster, sometimes that's enough to get me in the door.
As a lifelong nerd, I have a special connection to Stephen Hawking as a hero and an inspiration. No matter what setbacks I face, I know that this man has faced worse and succeeded beyond anyone's wildest dreams. I cannot wait to see this to compare it to Errol Morris' long unavailable adaptation of A Brief History of Time, one of my all-time favorite docs.
This may only be my second go-around at SXSW, but Austin is starting to feel like my second filmic home. I'm very excited to reconnect with friend and see some great films. This will be an extra special fest for me, as it will feature the premiere of the first film I've personally produced.
Okay, I get it, you're sick of hearing about it by now, but I gotta give it another shout. You can view the teaser here.
GROW UP, TONY PHILLIPS
Just as exciting as having your own film at a fest is seeing the labor of your friends and I'm very excited to see Emily Hagins latest outing, produced by pals Peter Hall and Paul Gandersman at Arcanum Pictures.
Bellflower was one of my favorite films from a couple years back and I've been very excited to see what the gang involved in that feature would get up to next. While composer/editor Jonathan Keevil is raising money for his directorial debut, producer Vincent Grashaw has just finished his and I'm pumped to see what he can do.
THE SHORT GAME
I love golf and I love documentaries and hey, kids are all right too. So I'm sure this documentary by Josh Greenbaum is bound to be a good time.
See you in Austin!