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SXSW Fest Concl.


by Scott Weinberg

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Intro / Day #1 / Day #2 / Day #3 / Day #4

So it's over. My fourth and finest trip to South By Southwest has drawn to a close. The friends have gone home, the movies have dried up, and the food ... well, the food's still pretty damn awesome. (Your local steak house has NOTHING on the barbecue spots in Texas' capital city!) My return to Homebase Philadelphia promises to be fairly insane, what with all the reviews I have to write, sleep I have to catch up on, and 'normal life' work to catch up on ... but what would a week's worth of festival reports be without some sort of comprehensive wrap-up?

Yes, the festival coverage here at JoBlo's is nothing if not thorough. We do this mainly to bring you the scoopage on a bunch of upcoming movies -- but also because we'd love to convince at least, say, nine of you to check out SXSW next year. Go ahead, movie geeks, spoil yourself with a flick-centric vacation that's worth every penny. Sundance and Toronto are fantastic and all that, but for a movie-nerd with a job, a family, and a budget, SXSW is your best option by far. No, I don't work for the festival, but the truth is this: I've yet to meet an SXSW attendee who hasn't come away ranting, raving, and yammering about how awesome the festival is. Plus if you go next year, you'll probably run into ME...and surely that's worth spending a few hundreds bucks. Right?

Anyway, the wrap-up. Here's a list of all the flicks I saw. The number after the title is my star rating, which works on a 1-5 scale, with one being mega-craptacular and 5 being the equivalent of a 90-minute Jennifer Connelly shower scene.

My reviews...

1. 51 Birch Street - 3.5
2. 95 Miles to Go - 4
3. Air Guitar Nation - 4.5
4. Al Franken: God Spoke - 4
5. Before the Music Dies - 4.5
6. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon - 4.5
7. Bickford Schmeckler's Cool Ideas - 4.5
8. The Cassidy Kids - 3.5
9. Champions - 3
10. Conversations with Other Women - 4.5
11. Darkon - 4.5
12. Danny Roane: First Time Director - 2.5
13. Fired! - 3.5
14. F*ck - 4.5
15. Hard Candy - 4.5
16. Jam - 3
17. The King - 3.5
18. The Last Romantic - 3.5
19. The Last Western - 3.5
20. loudQUIETloud: A Film About Pixies - 4
21. Maxed Out - 3.5
22. The Oh in Ohio - 3
23. Nobelity - 4
24. Population 436 - 3
25. A Prairie Home Companion - 3.5
26. Rank - 3
27. S&Man - 4
28. A Scanner Darkly - 3
29. Summercamp! - 3.5
30. Thank You for Smoking - 4
31. V for Vendetta - 4

So as you can see, I managed to avoid seeing anything I'd call downright awful, which is a pretty tough feat to accomplish at most film festivals. Even the "worst" flicks I saw (Andy Dick's directorial debut comes to mind) had a little something to offer, and some of my days were filled with four or five consecutive films of impressive quality! But since I'm only one guy, and my lovely little website had a half-dozen festival correspondents, I thought it might be helpful to enlist some of my colleague's opinions on some movie that I missed. Let's see what the HBS/EFC peanut gallery had to say about....

Other people's reviews...

AMERICANESE: "Americanese is about a break-up but also about so much more, slowly peeling away old layers but never discarding them so Raymond and Auroraís motives, past and future, become clearer without ever registering as false. When Raymond is given a picture in the final scene, the choice he reaches is an agonizing one, but one which is easy to accept for us, having made the journey to that decision with him. Eric Byler is the real deal." -- Erik Childress

CONVERSATIONS WITH OTHER WOMEN: "If thereís ever been a film that has captured the strains and regrets between a man and woman, itís this one. The acting by Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart is flawless, and is also probably the finest acting by two people consistently throughout a film that Iíve ever seen." -- Katharine Leis

EVEN MONEY: "The people involved in Even Money only have one modicum of thanks to extend and that is to the makers of the 1985 Ryan OíNeal fiasco, Fever Pitch. Because of them, Even Money doesnít have the distinction of being the worst film about gambling ever made. Then again, second place is also the first loser." -- Erik Childress

OLDCRASH: "A startling, well-made documentary and every minute of it is entertaining. If you've got a morbid curiosity for the story the White House isn't telling you, Oilcrash is an ugly and sobering take on one of the biggest issues the world faces today." -- Laura Kyle

LIFELIKE: "While "Lifelike" doesn't quite make fun of its subjects, it doesn't take them entirely seriously, either. (Director) Abecassis seems aware of these people's value as entertainment in addition to being genuinely fascinated by their obsessions. They all come across as likably odd people, even if they are have their dead pets freeze-dried for posterity." -- Eric D. Snider

PUPPY: "One of the most challenging and through provoking Australian films of 2005. Go out and see it. When that will be of course is a different matter." -- Trevor Gensch

SISTERS IN LAW: "This is a documentary that is so well edited and whose characters are so colourful that no narration is necessary." -- Mark Rodger-Snelson

CRUEL AND UNUSUAL: "Here's a problem I bet you never thought about before: When someone is transsexual, maybe a man in the process of becoming a woman, which prison does he/she go to? The men's or the women's?" -- Eric D. Snider

Coming Sooooon!

One of the most annoying thing about reading somebody else's festival reports is this: YOU wanna see the damn movie(s) already! So in order to be extra-helpful, I've put together a list of SXSW movies that already have release dates. Make sure you catch some of these flicks in between your superhero flicks and Da Vinci conspiracies:

95 Miles to Go -- April 7th (ThinkFilm)
American Dreamz -- April 21st (Universal)
Awesome; I F**kin' Shot That! -- March 31st (ThinkFilm)
Brothers of the Head -- July 28th (IFC)
The Child -- March 24th (Sony Pictures Classics)
District 13 -- May 2006 (Magnolia)
Friends With Money -- April 7th (Sony Pictures Classics)
Hard Candy -- April 14th (Lionsgate)
The Hidden Blade -- March 21st (DVD, Tartan Films)
In My Father's Den -- May 2006 (Tartan Films)
The King -- May 19th (ThinkFilm)
Kinky Boots -- April 14th (Miramax)
Metal: A Headbanger's Journey -- TBA (Warner Bros.)
Neil Young: Heart of Gold - Feb. 24th (Paramount Classics)
The Notorious Bettie Page -- April 14th (Picturehouse)
A Prairie Home Companion -- June 9th (Picturehouse)
A Scanner Darkly -- July 7th (Warner Independent Pictures)
Slither -- March 31st (Universal)
Thank You for Smoking -- March 17th (Fox Searchlight)
This Film Is Not Yet Rated -- September 1st (IFC)
V for Vendetta -- March 17th (Warner Bros.)

The Awards!

Like any film festival worth its salt, SXSW doles out some awards, half presented by the jury and half from the voting members of the festival audience. Here's who got what:

Jury Awards
Documentary Feature
Special Jury Award - Maxed Out
Winner - Jam

Narrative Feature
Special Jury Prize - Outstanding Ensemble Cast - AMERICANese
Special Jury Prize - Outstanding Visual Achiev. - Inner Circle Line
Winner - Live Free or Die

Audience Awards

24 Beats Per Second
Runner Up - The Refugee All Stars
Winner - Air Guitar Nation

Emerging Visions
Runner Up - Manhattan, Kansas
Winner - High Score

Lone Star States
Runner Up - Slam Planet: War of the Words
Winner - State vs. Reed

Documentary Feature
Winner - Darkon
Narrative Feature
Winner - AMERICANese

So there you have it: 2006's SXSW wrapped in from every imaginable angle. I was a little bit bummed to miss the screenings of SLITHER and AMERICAN DREAMZ, but those are big studio flicks that I'll always be able to see. One of the very coolest things about a well-programmed festival is that you'll get a few big-budget studio titles wedged in among some of the most interesting indies and grass-roots documentaries out there -- and few fests pull if off as well as SXSW does. My fourth year was the best one yet, which means next year's 5-year anniversary should be something pretty darn special. See you then!!




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