SXSW FILM FESTIVAL
SXSW Film Fest Update - Part 1!
by Alex Billington
March 11, 2008
As I currently write this, I'm relaxing in the Austin airport waiting to catch a flight to Las Vegas for my mid-fest intermission. Right smack in the middle of SXSW I'm traveling to Vegas for ShoWest, the annual theater owners' convention. While I'm excited for it, it is a bit sad that I'm leaving all of my friends back in Austin until I return. Since this is the first time I've been writing an update from SXSW, I've got to address the rumors - they're true. SXSW is as entertaining and fun as everyone has always said! This is one hell of a good film fest, but unfortunately this year's line-up isn't the greatest.
I've never been to Austin, Texas and the first thing I've got to mention is that I'm thoroughly impressed by this town. It's not at all the typical Texas kind of city you'd imagine, especially downtown where everything is located. Not only is the atmosphere great, but the theaters are even better. The Alamo Drafthouse chain of theaters is officially the best theater chain in all of America. Yet another rumor confirmed! More on that later, but it's good to know that I can actually enjoy a Texas city for once.
One minor issue to address is the fact that the film fest seems like the least attended (or cared about) part of the giant SXSW festival. The interactive side has all of the attention at the moment, especially on the internet, and the music side will take over later this week. Although all the screenings are always 100% filled to capacity, there doesn't seem to be as strong of a film community as Sundance or even Toronto. It's like everyone is just seeing films occasionally, not talking about them and experiencing the fest together.
I do need to give a special shout out to Universal for putting together an event for Forgetting Sarah Marshall. The film screened last night (you can read my review) and before it all began, Universal treated a number of press (including SlashFilm, Rejects, Kevin Kelly from io9, Ain't It Cool News, Cinematical, IGN and others) to a cocktail hour with the cast. When Kristen Bell showed up, we all jumped at an opportunity to take a photo with the lovely actress, and thankfully she obliged. Also thankfully, I knew better, so I left it up to Ken (pictured above) to be the one who got a photo this time. Our wristbands for that event got us into the screening in the VIP section, which was definitely a plus.
I need to take this opportunity to gush over how incredible the Alamo Drafthouse theaters are. The Drafthouse is a famous chain with a few small locations around Austin, but it kicks some serious ass. Everyone knows I'm a tough guy to impress when it comes to theater quality, but within one screening, they had instantly shot to the top. Beyond the old school grindhouse movies they show on the screen while you wait for your movie to start, it's the design of the seats combined with the fact that they serve food, beer, and more all to your seat while you watch the movie, that makes them so great.
You have to actually be there and see this whole concept in operation to understand why it's so amazing. If at first you think that eating food would be annoying during a movie, this is why I mention they've designed a system that works perfectly. The seating isn't crowded - it's spaced so that a waiter can walk in front of you, your drinks can sit on the tabletop in front of you, and everything can be enjoyed without getting in the way of the screen. It seriously is the greatest movie theater experience ever and I looking forward to referencing it many, many times in the future.
The last few things before I shutdown and the cabin doors close… I will admit I've been partying (but why is that a bad thing?!). I'm sure a few of you have seen the infamous video on SlashFilm, but it's all part of the fun experience. Austin is as much of a party town as it is a film town, if not even more. The bars are always packed and if the party is sponsored, the drinks are free. One thing leads to another, and before long all of us are spouting vicious arguments in defense of the movie we all saw hours earlier. It may sound brutal, but it's all fun and games in the end truthfully…
SXSW 2008 Review List:
Harold & Kumar 2 - 7/10
Second Skin - 9/10
We Are Wizards - 4/10
American Teen (Second Time) - 9.5/10
Explicit Ills - 6/10
Super High Me - 6.5/10
The Promotion - 7/10
Dance of the Dead - 8.5/10
Blip Festival: Reformat the Planet - 7/10
Forgetting Sarah Marshall - 7.5/10
For now I've got to wrap up, but Ken will be back soon with more from Austin and the SXSW Film Fest. I'll be back myself later in the week with more on the fest once I return, but for now, stay tuned for updates from ShoWest and reviews from Ken. Adios amigos!
The guys from Blip Festival: Reformat the Planet, our favorite publicist Karen Oberman, Neil, me (sticking out in the back), Brian from Rejects, Peter and Mel from SlashFilm, and Ken.