So everyone I know only cares about SXSW Music and over the last few years everyone in the tech community is raving over SXSW Interactive but as someone who has done nine South by Southwests I will tell you that by far my favorite part is SXSW Film. I work my ass off during music week so I use the film fest as a mini vacation. I still work and cover the red carpets and things but I also get to see a bunch of movies. This year I think I saw 8 films and as with every other year they were all at least interesting if not fantastic. I also set up a few mini shoots with actors/directors from movies in the festival so I got some shots of something other than people standing on a yellow back drop. Here are some highlights…
My favorite film of the festival was Safety Not Guaranteed. It’s a “quirky” film about a three journalists trying to do a story on a guy who posted a classified ad looking for a partner to travel back in time with him. It stars Mark Duplass and my biggest celebrity crush Aubrey Plaza. The film is absolutely hilarious, has fantastic performances from all the main rolls and ends with a bang. I got five minutes with Plaza, Duplass and Jake Johnson to do mini photo shoots which would have been awesome except about 30 seconds before I met the cast I stuck my hand in my pocket and when I pulled out a pack of gum I ripped open a cut on my hand and just started bleeding everywhere. It was really awesome meeting one of my favorite actresses with “I would shake your hand but it’s covered with blood.”
The most fucked up film of the festival was far and away was William Fridkin’s Killer Joe based of the Tracy Letts play of the same name. Matthew McConaughey stars as lawman turned hitman who has been hired by Emile Hirsch to kill his drug addicted mother so he can collect on her life insurance policy and pay back some scary people that he owes money. The also features Juno Temple, Thomas Haden Church and Gina Gershon in secondary rolls that they knock out of the park. Haden Church gives a really dark film moments of much needed hilarity with his dead pan delivery. Another one of my all time celebrity crushes, Gershon is involved in one of the most fucked up scenes ever put on film which I cannot even mention without ruining it but it involves fried chicken.
The most suprizing film was 21 Jump Street. Every year at SXSW Film there seem to be one or two big blockbusters that premiere there and you aren’t exactly sure why. Festival curator Janet Pierson defended the Hollywood film before it’s introduction as saying they just like good movies and 21 Jump Street is hilarious. She was right. I loved 21 Jump Street as a kid so I wanted to see it but I had very low expectations but the film ended up being one of the funniest movies I have seen this year. (I know it’s only March but I watch a lot of movies…) Jonah Hill was his normal funny self but he also produced the film and brought Channing Tatum on board. Tatum was unbelievably good in it and you have to give a lot of credit to Hill for believing that Tatum could actually be funny. If you aren’t aware, the 80′s TV show 21 Jump Street was not a comedy and instead of doing a remake the movie just takes the basic premise of the show (young looking cops going undercover in high schools) and making a really funny movie at it. Unlike other TV show film remakes they only took a few shots at the original show and instead focused on making a solid comedy that didn’t feel like a remake.
Lastly I wanted to talk about the premiere of HBO’s TV show Girls. I am gonna probably get into this show a lot more soon since it is written, directed and starring my friend Lena Dunham (and I even have a line in episode 7) but I wanted to at least mention it. Lena came to SXSW two years ago with her film Tiny Furniture and I was standing a few feet away from her when it won Best Naritive Feature and I was super proud of her and knew she was going to do big things. I had no idea that she would blow up as quickly as she did. She showed the first three episodes of her Judd Apatow produced HBO comedy and they were even better than I imagined. Two Showtime execs were sitting next to me in the crowd and even they had to begrudgingly admit that the show was going to be a hit. Just be in front of a TV April 14th and you will see what I am talking about.
So yeah, SXSW Film was fucking awesome. I saw a bunch more stuff too so I just wanted to give quick nods to Mike Birbiglia’s Sleep Walk With me and Fat Kid Rules the World. Both were fantastic films that are well worth seeking out when they are released. And I also should mention that I shot photos of the stars/directors of Sun Don’t Shine, Beauty Is Embarrassing, Compliance and Small Apartments. I did’t get a chance to see any of the films but they all looked great and I hope to get a chance to see them soon.