The SXSW 2012 Diaries #1: 72 Hours Worth of BBQ, Sickness, Movies, Parties, Conflict and Weird Conversations

The SXSW 2012 Diaries #1: 72 Hours Worth of BBQ, Sickness, Movies, Parties, Conflict and Weird Conversations

Mar 14, 2012

It’s 2 A.M., I’m alone in my hotel room enjoying a severe allergic reaction to Penicillin, while everyone I know in this town is currently seeing a movie about Nazis on the moon. Frankly, this is always how I suspected things would end for me. But if it had to happen, I’m glad it’s happening at SXSW, which despite my body in revolt remains the most relentless film festival on Earth. 

There are a million stories at SXSW, about 12 of which involve good eating habits. This isn’t one of those 12. 

March 8, 2012

10:30 A.M. I board my flight from NYC to SXSW. I haven’t seen this many beards in one place since the 2008 Republican National Convention. 

2:30 P.M. Austin looks a lot grayer than it did last year. But then again, so do I.

5:16 P.M. A knock on my hotel room door disturbs me from the best nap I’ve had since The Good Shepherd

5:17 P.M. The mystery knocker is revealed: Room service has brought me a little poster for The Cabin in the Woods made out of white chocolate, appropriately the most subversive of the chocolates. I am pleased.

5:37 P.M. My hotel room phone has a dedicated T.G.I. Friday’s button. Suddenly, it’s like I’m living the second season of Lost.

5:38 P.M. I totally pushed it.


6:11 P.M. Oh, so this is what regret tastes like. If only there was some other place I could grab a decent bite to eat in this town.

7:40 P.M. I’m at Salt Lick, a BBQ mecca so deep in the woods of Texas that you can barely even hear the Friday Night Lights soundtrack. It’s a veritable summit of film bloggers -- I feel like the kids from Weird Science, but instead of manifesting my dream girl I’ve brought my Twitter feed to life. Rookie mistake.

9:00 P.M. The talk invariably turns to the SXSW lineup. Even folks who’ve already seen The Raid and 21 Jump Street are excited for those screenings -- they want to be there when the roof of the historic Paramount blows off. 

11:15 P.M. Bed. Meat is the Ambien of the South. 

March 9, 2012

11 A.M - 7 P.M. Burritos.

7:14 P.M. I caught The Cabin in the Woods back in NYC, so I’m free to avoid the opening night madness at the Paramount. Instead, I opt for a smaller film at the Stateside Theater next door. All I know is that it’s called Electrick Children and that Billy Zane is in it, so I’m feeling pretty good.

7:16 P.M. Billy Zane is starting to look a little old. I think it’s time for him to change his name to “William Zane.”

9:00 P.M. Well that was wonderful, the type of small, impeccably directed indie that reminds you why you fly to fests like this. I’m elated. I must now try to prolong this feeling with alcohol.

Electrick Children 

9:10 P.M. I’m wearing literally everything that I packed, and I’m still freezing. On the bright side, this is totally going to be the most hip case of pneumonia I’ve ever had.

9:43 P.M. I’ve finagled my way inside the Cabin in the Woods party. There is no doubt in my mind that Richard Jenkins is going to be super excited to sing “Boats N’ Hoes” with me. 

10:10 P.M. At some point during our conversation, Cabin in the Woods director Drew Goddard has become convinced that I professionally review “The Real World / Road Rules Challenge” for The New York Times. I am quick to correct him.

10:12 P.M. Note to self: If someone is convinced that you write for The New York Times, don’t correct them.

11:25 P.M. Packed into Buffalo Billiards for the opening night party, an annual shindig so lame that I don't even have to pretend to be somebody else to be allowed in. 

11:49 P.M. Oof, I haven't been this drunk since at least noon. A publicist keeps asking me to take a picture with Han from the Fast and the Furious movies. I look at the actor standing by himself and ask the publicist if she’s worried about him looking all Han Solo. She does not return my high-five.

March 10, 2012.

Sxspress Line

7:33 A.M. And off goes my alarm -- time to trudge over to the convention center and sleep in line for SXspress passes. At a festival with no press & industry screenings, the man with one hour of sleep is king. 

8:02 A.M. In an exhausted attempt to make a funny, I ask the elderly couple in line next to me if they have a few pounds of cocaine they’d be willing to let me borrow. Without a moment’s hesitation, the wife responds: “Grams, maybe.” 

12:15 P.M. For the first time since last March, I’m finally back at the glorious Alamo Ritz. I’m here to see Girl Model, a discomforting documentary about the fashion world (is there any other kind?). 

12:40 P.M. The only difference between this and a typical episode of MTV’s “True Life” is that, during this, a server brought me a milkshake made out of pecans and beer.

2:15 P.M. Doing some quality wandering -- downtown Austin has been entirely consumed by SXSW, but film still feels functional. There are people everywhere, but with so many events and screenings scattered across the area, there are definitely days during which I go long stretches of time without bumping into anyone I recognize (nights filter everyone towards the same midnight movies).

3:33 P.M. I’m seated in the Paramount Theater for the world premiere of the new Patton Oswalt / Johnny Knoxville comedy about boy scouts: Nature Calls. It doesn't sound promising, but I'm relatively sure that this won’t be the most painful movie of the festival. I mean, this year's lineup includes a movie directed by Matthew Lillard. 

4:19 P.M. Apologies to Matthew Lillard are in order. Nature Calls will be the worst thing that happens to me during SXSW, and I almost die later in this article.

4:40 P.M. Someone on screen just said the word “Hoobastank.” I laugh. Now those guys knew comedy. 

5:55 P.M. My favorite place to snack between screenings is the Film Hideout, a hippie coffee shop near the Paramount that’s exclusive to film badges for the weekend. The pistachio muffins are to die for. 

6:01 P.M. The woman ahead of me just got the last pistachio muffin. Only the villain from Oldboy could possibly understand how I feel at this moment.

6:24 P.M. Back in the Paramount queue, this time for Sundance time-travel favorite Safety Not Guaranteed. Rumor has it that the movie finally provides Aubrey Plaza with the opportunity to play droll.

6:51 P.M. As someone who ritualizes the film festival experience, I’m always interested in seeing what sort of civilian audiences these things attract, and how those outsiders grapple with all the pomp and circumstance. 

The girl next to me is a local econ major attending her only SXSW event. She just saw Nick Offerman in the hallway, and has called her friend to discuss the experience. The following is a verbatim transcription of the side of the call I could hear: “Oh. My. God. You will never believe who I just saw! Nick Offerman!!! ...He plays Ron Swanson? ...On Parks and Rec? ...You know, the guy with the mustache and the internet on that channel? Wait, how drunk are you? Just don’t black out, you’re so annoying when you black out. Ugh, not Fat Mike, again. Come on... Fine, I’ll drive you to the clinic in the morning. ...Yeah, he was in Deadwood.” 

7:30 P.M. I’ve decided that there is exactly one actor capable of playing Aubrey Plaza in her inevitable biopic, and that’s Cookie Monster. Sure, he’s blue and not human, but no one else can roll their eyes as much as the part would require.


Paramount Line

8:36 P.M. Safety Not Guaranteed is sort of like Primer for the Tumblr generation. If that doesn’t make any sense to you, you probably won’t like this movie. I’d tell you how much I did, but I’m too busy refreshing my Tumblr. 

8:37 P.M. I have to be at the Ritz approximately 5 minutes ago, so it’s time to sprint like the wind through 6 or 7 blocks of bustling Austin foot traffic. This would be a lot easier if I could time travel and / or stop slurping down milkshakes made out of pecans and beer.

8:40 P.M. I make it to the Ritz just as they’re closing out the screening -- The Comedy doesn’t start for 20 minutes, but it’s a cozy joint and fills up fast.

9:01 P.M. The director of The Comedy takes the stage, and -- with uncomfortably sincere conviction -- he offers the audience one last chance to head for the hills. But it’s too late, most of us have already ordered food. In all respects, the Alamo Drafthouse is a hard place to leave.

9:03 P.M. The lights go down -- I wonder what could have inspired 65% of this film’s Sundance crowd to walk out?

9:04 P.M. ...Maybe Tim Heidecker’s oiled penis, flapping around in slow-motion during the opening shot had something to do with it. 

9:39 P.M. This is like a Sofia Coppola movie, if Sofia Coppola movies replaced their silences with extended conversations about hobo semen. 

10:15 P.M. No one has walked out, so far! Maybe it’s because this is one of the very best films of the fest, or maybe it’s because SXSW audiences are just more tolerant than those at Sundance.

10:40 P.M. The correct answer is: Neither! Turns out most of these people have stuck around for the chance to call the director a misogynist during the Q&A. Others, to accuse a supporting actress of betraying her gender. Fools, all of them -- The Comedy left me breathless.

The Comedy

10:55 P.M. Seriously, I’m having trouble breathing. No one on Sixth Street seems to care. Certainly not the guy dressed as Boba the Fett. Not even the drunk guy trying to pants the guy dressed as Boba the Fett.

11:01 P.M. Austin is starting to look a lot less like SXSW, and a lot more like Jacob’s Ladder. Usually that doesn’t happen until the music people get here.

11:15 P.M. Finally back in the hotel, I take a peek in the mirror to make sure that everything is alright. Everything is great. I mean, if you really want to be a stickler about it you might notice that my entire body is covered in hives and I look like Woody Allen wearing a Hellboy costume, but other than that I’m totally cool. 

11:30 P.M. I’m pretty sure that this is my body's delayed reaction to Nature Calls, but the internet tells me it’s an allergic reaction to the regiment of Penicillin I’ve been taking for a sinus infection. Agree to disagree.

1:28 A.M. I finally give in and consult the ultimate medical resource for medical information: Twitter. No one I know responds. Curse you, moon Nazis! A stranger tweets at me to go to the E.R.

3:00 A.M. Oh, right. Daylight savings. Awesome. The hospital seems like a good idea, but I have to be in line for SXspress passes in less than 5 hours, and the key to any good festival experience is prioritizing. 

Will our hero survive? Or has he drank his last pecan porter milkshake? Either way, I promise that the next installment of these SXSW diaries will be a lot shorter. Stay tuned! 

Categories: Features, Film Festivals
Tags: SXSW, SXSW2012
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