March 11, 2012
1:05 P.M. I’m alive! (as folks who read part 1 of my SXSW diary might be surprised to learn). And some point during my sleep the sun came out -- this is the Austin I remember. Now I’ve gotta get a ride over to the Alamo Lamar, which is the only major SXSW location outside of the downtown area.
1:20 P.M. My choices to get from the hotel to the Lamar are as follows: A $75 chariot ride from one of Austin’s inexplicably cute pedicab drivers, or a $15 taxi from one of Austin’s explicably not as cute taxi drivers. Given that I am a movie blogger and thus have even fewer dollars than I do social graces, I decide to walk.
2:01 P.M. I’m seated for Guy Maddin’s Keyhole, which is a bit outré for the SXSW line-up but manages to fill the theater, all the same. The medicine I’m on said something about not drinking any alcohol, but it didn’t say something about not drinking any alcohol that is buried at the bottom of a milkshake.
2:35 P.M. Hoping this will be the last film I see today that’s narrated by a naked old man chained to a bed, but I'm guessing it won’t be.
3:00 P.M. Guy Maddin I love you, but you’re bringing me down.
3:50 P.M. I’m trying to hitch a ride back downtown to work and then catch the world premiere of Starlet -- a dude rocking a Bluetooth headset asks to share a cab and I oblige. A day in which you’re saying “yes” to seeing a film in SXSW’s narrative competition is not a day in which you’re saying “no” very often.
3:55 P.M. Oh, the dude rocking the Bluetooth headset is an agent -- what are the odds!
3:56 P.M. I’m trying so hard not to ask him what Lloyd is like in real life.
Across from the Stateside Theater before STARLET.
7:05 P.M. Judging by the applause during the film’s introduction, methinks I’m the only person in the audience who isn’t good friends with the director. To me, he’s just a guy in skinny jeans, and if 5 years of film school has taught me anything, it's that no one in skinny jeans has ever directed a good movie.
7:25 P.M. 20 minutes into Starlet. Hate is a strong word, but it took Colonel Kurtz months in the jungle to feel the way I do right now.
7:45 P.M. Despite the fact that the word “starlet” has no real modern usage beyond the porn industry, the movie is using its protagonist’s profession as the mystery holding the narrative together. These people probably thought Paul Blart: Mall Cop was a spoiler, and that John Carter is a perfectly succinct title.
8:52 P.M. Well, for an 11-hour movie, that just flew by. And it didn’t have nearly enough porn (although to be fair, I think that of almost every movie. Especially Paul Blart: Mall Cop).
9:01 P.M. I tweet my disdain for Starlet, and immediately begin to feel some seriously uncharacteristic pangs of guilt. At a film festival of this size, it’s likely that the filmmakers are reading every nugget of reaction they can find, but at what point does it matter? How big does a film have to be before you no longer feel as if public criticism is tantamount to a personal attack? All movies are made by people, at the end of the day, but at what point does it feel like we're entitled to air our grievances? Distribution, maybe?
9:20 P.M. It’s right back to the Lamar for V/H/S . I'm super early, because Austin is ultimately a Fantastic Fest kinda town, and the genre stuff commands the most attention at SXSW by far. V/H/S isn't just a highly anticipated new horror film, it's six.
11:05 P.M. The line stretches all the way around the strip-mall, and the official word is that “Everyone past the scooter store doesn’t have a chance.”
March 12, 2012
12:35 A.M. V/H/S has been on for a few minutes and my chicken club sandwich has just arrived. I’m about to learn the hard way that hot food and jump-scares don’t mix.
12:36 A.M. Ouch. It’s cool, I’ll want that bacon later.
12:52 A.M. It’s cool, the girl sitting next to me will want that bacon later.
1:01 A.M. Conveniently, I’m not hungry, anymore.
1:45 A.M. It’s like this movie is systematically making me afraid of every possible human environment. Already, I am too scared to ever go into the woods, basements, motels, parking lots, frat bars (though I was already afraid of those), and Arizona.
1:58 A.M. And Skype.
V/H/S Q&A moderated by our very own Scott E. Weinberg. Ti West looks on.
3:00 A.M. After a Q&A moderated by Movies.com’s own Scott Weinberg, the most promising horror filmmakers of a generation gather outside the Alamo to hang out. At SXSW -- unlike Sundance -- the walls between fans and filmmakers are completely demolished. It’s something in the Austin air, like everyone’s just there to celebrate the stuff they love, and that precludes all of the fawning crap that buries most film festivals under a smog of belittlement. There are no “It” stars at SXSW -- the buzz is earned, not manufactured, and that makes all the difference.
7:45 A.M. Annnddd I’m back in line at the convention center for SXpress passes. The problem at a fest where it feels like you can see everything, is that you also feel like you have to.
1:01 P.M. Compliance is to the tapes of Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiment as Gus van Sant’s Psycho is to the original. Craig Zobel is definitely a director to watch, but this is a futile waste of talent.
1:30 P.M. Seated for the world premiere of Gayby, which I assume is an Adam Sandler film in which the dark powers of CG allow him to play the lead role of a gay baby.
1:55 P.M. Gayby is one of the 8 films in SXSW’s narrative competition, which is hard to believe because it’s been on for almost 30 minutes and I still haven’t walked out.
2:05 P.M. Not only is the baby not gay, it’s not even born! Words are so confusing. This is very cute, sort of like Will & Grace for the Kickstarter generation. That may sound like faint praise, but at least it’s not like Joey for the Kickstarter generation.
3:40 P.M. Gayby hit really close to home. I mean, I’m straight and not even thinking about having a kid, but the movie uses my apartment building in an establishing shot.
3:45 P.M. Straight from Gayby to the line for the premiere of Lena Dunham’s Girls. It's the circle of life. Since arriving at the Stateside Theater for Compliance this morning, I’ve moved a grand total of 50 feet.
4:00 P.M. They’re handing out free Girls t-shirts to the first 30 people on line, but in order to get one you have to prove that you’re following the Girls Twitter account. I’ve Tweeted over 18,000 times, and I’ve finally earned a t-shirt so tiny it could fit a gayby. Suddenly, Skee-ball seems like a great investment.
4:10 P.M. Someone is causing a stir on the red carpet. The woman behind me cranes her neck and exclaims: “Oh my God, it’s Channing Tatum!”
4:11 P.M. Turns out it was Judd Apatow. Common mistake.
SXSW director Janet Pierson on stage with the GIRLS crew.
5:40 P.M. And I always thought that Cathouse would be the best HBO show about aimless young women having uncomfortable sex.
6:33 P.M. Judd Apatow: “Abortions tend to shorten stories.” Romania has dedicated their entire film industry to refuting this claim.
9:31 P.M. The Violet Crown is a new SXSW venue, this year. It’s a beautiful space with a cozy bar, enormous screens in tiny auditoriums, and a concession stand that sells snacks like ghost peppers wrapped in cake. The only problem is that the lobby is too small to have a formal line, so everyone just mills about the lobby until they open the theater, at which point you practically have to win the Hunger Games in order to get in.
9:45 P.M. I'm in (my Hunger Games name is Woof Fenugreek). Time for Daylight Savings.
11:30 P.M. That was lovely. And these are the first two guys I see once I leave the theater -- it's safe to say that the music portion of SXSW has begun:
March 13, 2012
1:11 P.M. I just woke up. It’s gonna be tough to make that 11:30 screening Vivan Las Antipodas!
3:00 - 8:00 P.M. Writing. Hungry. I’ve forgotten how to feed myself outside of an Alamo Drafthouse.
8:24 P.M. The line for Mike Birbiglia's Sleepwalk With Me is insane, especially considering that the film doesn't involve vampires, zombies, or even moon nazis. It involves Ira Glass.
11:30 P.M. Turns out that Sleepwalk With Me is actually the scariest film of the fest, the terrifying true story of a moderately talented comedian who hurts himself in his sleep, a nightly happening that is ultimately revealed to be his body’s way of letting him know that he’s completely wasted his 20s. I may never sleep again.
11:52 P.M. Sixth Street (downtown Austin's busiest area) was pretty crazy before SXSW's music events started, now it's flat-out Santorum.
March 14, 2012
12:06 A.M. I bail on my plan to catch the Clive Owen thriller Intruders, because a quick once-over of the reviews from TIFF suggest that it's not worth the effort. As I walk back to the hotel, ducking and dodging through crowds that seem ripped straight out of Strange Days, I take stock of the fact that most of the SXSW films that I've really enjoyed have been holdovers from other fests (namely Sundance). At this moment, I make a judgment call to spare anyone reading this from a long essay on SXSW and their ever-evolving identity.
2:20 P.M. Trudging over to the convention center to finally take a peek at the screening library, a room for press in which 15 TVs are hooked up to DVD players, and a small sample of the festival lineup is available for us to peruse at our leisure. To gain entry, you have to give the person at the door your badge, so they know you won't run off with a screener. I look over the list and opt for a Nick Offerman movie called Somebody Up There Likes Me.
2:22 P.M. I glance around the room at the other writers. Except for one guy watching a short film directed by a cat, literally everyone else is watching Somebody Up There Likes Me.
2:40 P.M. I have to go to the bathroom. I ask the woman minding the door if I’ll need my badge in order to make it to the restroom and back without any trouble, and she insists that I will. She fishes out a badge from the pile and I’m on my way.
2:45 P.M. I don’t want to paint more of a picture than is necessary here, but let’s just say that it was far too late by the time that I realized the woman had given me somebody else’s badge. My sincerest apologies to Mark Asch of L Magazine.
4:49 P.M. It's been a year since it premiered here, but according to one Austin bathroom, The FP is still the worst movie ever.
5:15 P.M. Organized indifference, thy name is the line for Richard Linklater’s Bernie. Everybody’s here as if they were forced. When in Austin.
6:25 P.M. There’s an entire row reserved for “McConaughey.” Good thing they taped them off, cause that guy certainly doesn’t have the clothes required to save this many seats.
6:35 P.M. The crowd is going absolutely nuts for McConaughey. It’s like he’s a movie star or something, down here.
7:07 P.M. Oof. Has it been 10 years since Before Sunset, yet?
9:00 P.M. Downtown has become too much of a madhouse to explore, and I’m too exhausted to karaoke at the Highball. Tomorrow I’ll catch the LCD Soundsystem concert doc Shut Up & Play the Hits as my last film of the fest, and dance my way out of town. I faded a bit at the end, there, but my 2nd consecutive SXSW has been a blast. Sundance may have bigger buzz and Cannes may have bigger movies, but there's nothing out there that manages to get both parts of a film festival so right.