Thursday, April 07, 2011

Stephanie Huettner's SXSW journal [part two]

Saturday, March 12

So, let's jump back in time for the second half of March 12. One of the few non-film events I got to do at SXSW was attend a live taping of two separate Doug Loves Movies podcasts. For those who don't know, the podcast is hosted by comic Doug Benson. The first half is just free form conversation with the weekly guests and the second half is a movie trivia competition called “The Leonard Maltin Game,” in which soundbites and ratings given by Leonard Maltin are used as clues to quiz questions. Each guest picks a person in the audience to play for and the winning guest will give that person all of the special prizes. I have to say that the best prize of the evening was a pair of jeans brought by Dave Foley. He said that they are his favorite “travelin' pants” and that he thought it would be nice to give them away while on vacation. People fashion their own name tags for the event, trying to make them as unique as possible to stand out in the crowd. Mine was made by my friend, Melissa, because I was just too busy to slap my name on something. It was pretty damn sweet. Thanks, Melissa!

The first show had the aforementioned Foley, Kevin Pollack and a young comic named Anthony Jeselnik. The second show had Simon Pegg (at the festival for Paul), Rainn Wilson and James Gunn, who were both there for the premier of Super (more on that film later). Go to iTunes and listen to the podcast to hear it. None of the guests had heard the podcast before, so it was an exciting time of learning and growth for us all. James Gunn chose the name tag of the person to my left, a new friend named Moises. He told me that if Gunn won, thus giving him all of the special prizes, then I could have them. Gunn was the heavy favorite to win, so I was pretty excited. Rainn Wilson was pretty hopeless at the game, which wasn't really a surprise to me. The best new category that Doug invented was “Pullman/Paxton,” in which the answer will be a movie starring either Bill Pullman or Bill Paxton. Pegg turned out to be a ringer and won the game on Twister. Damn you, Simon Pegg!

Monday, March 14

So, remember in that last post when I had to leave Win Win early? Well, that's because I had to get up north to another theater for the second screening of James Gunn's Super, to make sure nothing kooky went down in the projection booth. I was already charmed by Gunn from the podcast, but when he showed up for the second screening of his movie at a satellite venue (most filmmakers only attend the big premier), I was smitten. I still have yet to see his Tromeo and Juliet or Slither, but I do love his web series, PG Porn (thanks, Vern Snackwell). I also enjoyed the film Lollilove, in which he appeared as an actor with ex-wife Jenna Fischer. I really enjoyed Super more than I expected. Perhaps “enjoyed” isn't exactly correct. I was entertained, fascinated and amused by it. Much of it is very dark, so people expecting just another silly, low-budget superhero movie will get a swift rhetorical kick in the head. On that Doug Loves Movies podcast taping, Gunn described the movie as “part comedy, part drama, part violent Charles Bronson action film.” I thought it balanced the violence and sweetness well and gave the audience just enough empathy for the characters to avoid alienating them.

After the screening, Gunn played a voicemail from his phone which Rainn Wilson had left especially for that audience, since he had already skipped town. “I heard that so many people wanted to get in that there were people sitting in the aisles. That makes my heart....absolutely sick! That's a fire hazard guys! You are endangering yourselves and everyone else. How. Dare. You.” Gunn then took questions from the audience. A young, comic-nerdy looking fella asked if there would be as much time between Super and Gunn's next movie as there was between Slither and Super (five years). Gunn reassured him that there would not be.

Tuesday, March 15

The midnight screening of Hobo With a Shotgun was one of the most strangely anticipated events of the 2011 SXSW Film Festival. In 2007, Robert Rodriguez and Harry Knowles of Ain't it Cool News held a “Grindhouse Trailer Competition.” The winner of this competition would have their creation played before the national release of the Rodriguez/Tarantino double feature, Grindhouse. That honor went to the wildly popular “Hobo With a Shotgun” from Halifax, Nova Scotia. The trailer had the dirty, gritty feel that most of the other submissions lacked. As the title implies, it concerns a homeless man who takes to the crime-ridden streets of his town to take revenge on the scum who prey on the innocent and the helpless.

Now comes the film of the same name, this time with Rutger Hauer (yes!) in the lead. I arrived early to the Alamo Ritz to meet up with Sean (whom CineRobot readers will remember as the author of the article about projectionists in movies) and we made our way to the theater. SXSW bought everyone in the house a Miller Lite (yay?) and then the film got rolling. The main attraction in Hobo is the over- the-top, non-stop violence. Rutger Hauer, for his part, knocks it out of the park. He plays the role with a ludicrous sincerity that must be admired. During the 2am Q&A, the director, Jason Eisener, told a story from the set. In one scene, “Hobo” gets beaten by the police and thrown off a roof in to a dumpster. While prepping for the scene, the director noticed Hauer setting up a ladder along the wall of the building near the dumpster. When Eisener inquired about what he was doing, Hauer responded: “Tell the behind-the-scenes crew that a 66-year-old man is about to do a stunt.” He proceeded to flip from the top of the building and nail the shot. That kind of gem enhances a screening experience to a level that is impossible to recreate anywhere else. I sucked down that Miller Lite with unabashed, exhausted contentment.

Wednesday, March 16

This was the one day I took off from work and I was on call all day. The first screening of the day was 96 Minutes, which garnered a lot of buzz at the festival. I was too sleepy to watch, and decided to take a nap on one of the cushioned benches in the upstairs lobby of The Long Center, which looks out on to the terrace above Auditorium Shores (where a riot at The Strokes show happened later on). I woke up to tech check (technical testing of sound and audio) the Troublemaker Studios release, blacktino. Then, it was up north to another venue. This was an exhausting afternoon. The next five hours were filled with equipment breaking and sound not working. However, I was lucky to have two great volunteer projectionists and two helpful theater managers backing me up. I also had Sean leave a shift to assist me with some of the machinery issues.

After that kind of day, I just needed to laugh. Luckily, Conan O'Brien Can't Stop was playing downtown at The Paramount. I was on call and had to stay in the downtown area, so I thought I'd sit in until someone called me with the next emergency. The movie is a comedy travel documentary, beginning just after our dear, sweet, ginger avenger has finished his run on “The Tonight Show,” and is starting to work on his Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television live tour. I was lucky enough to catch the Austin stop on this tour, and the movie does an excellent job of conveying the raw electricity at the shows. I do have to tell all of the Tulsa readers that I would rather have seen Tulsa's special guest, Hanson, play “Never Been to Spain” with Coco, than the guest we had in Austin. I did, however, end SXSW 2011 with a Hanson show, so it all worked out. Can't Stop is part concert film and part confessional for Conan. There are some very sweet moments that show Conando jumping on the bed with his kids just before he leaves to go on tour, and some in which he is quite frustrated by some heavy scheduling which was negotiated on his behalf. At one point, he loses his cool a bit after a backup dancer brings in dozens of friends and family to meet him after a performance. He poses with them playfully and talks to them, but vents later on that “I have real friends that I'd like to spend a spare minute with.” The movie has a good pace and The Paramount was full of raucous laughter throughout the screening. It was, no surprise, one of my favorite movies at the festival.

While I don't have time to write about everything I saw, I have to mention a few films. Building Hope is a lovely documentary by Turk Pipkin, which follows his foundation, The Nobelity Project, and their mission to build the first high school in a rural Kenyan community. Tell Your Friends! is a fun comedy concert film that features comedians like Kristen Schaal, Reggie Watts (who opened for Conan on his tour) and Christian Finnegan. Any comedy nerds out there will love it. Dragonslayer, which won the Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature, is an honest and straightforward portrait of a young skater in Fullerton, California who is looking to get back on his wheels in the professional world. There's no narrative push towards a big competition. Just a young man, already a father, trying to find his way in the world while falling in love and re-discovering his passion.

SXSW 2011 was a great ride. It was never boring and there was always something to see, do and hear. I'm going to take a nap now.

***Photos by Stephanie Huettner***


the hidden staircase said...

had no idea about the conan movie. wonder if it will come to dvd. hope so! i will forever miss his ny show...ah.

the hidden staircase said...

oh, ps about conan's tour- here in seattle, i read that his musical guest was eddie vedder and his ukulele...

Joshua Blevins Peck said...

HS: The Conan doc got picked up to be released so I'm sure it will play in a Seattle theatre near you.

That was one of the neat things about that tour, he always had some kind of local connection to provide the music portion of the night.

Money the hard way said...

I saw Hanson perform "Never been to Spain" live at Conan's show and it was incredible. They are so talented and cool. They make me proud to be an Okie.

Billy said...

Living an hour and a half from San Antonio and three hours from Austin, I have to be selective about what I go see. Thanks to your journal comments in both one and two, I'm lining my sights up on several of the ones you mentioned. Nice descriptions and a real unbiased eye (okay, except maybe for Coco!).Thanks!

Rumblefish said...

@hidden staircase: I think they show a clip of the Seattle show in the Coco doc. It's when Eddie is still in his banging two tambourines together phase.

@MTHW: They are amazing live.

@Billy: Glad to be of service, sir!