Tim League’s first day of SXSW
I personally had to miss the first day of SXSW due to a commitment to be at Texas Fearfest in Dallas. I made it back in to town about an hour before the OF ALL THE THINGS after party at the Austin Beast House. I watched OF ALL THE THINGS about two months ago and was immediately charmed by the film. It's the story of Dennis Lambert, 1970's Yacht Rock era hit-machine songwriter. His one album tanked in the states but went platinum in the Philippines. 25 years after leaving the business, Dennis is convinced by a Filipino promoter to do his first ever tour... of the Philippines. Dennis performed a 6 song set at the party, a sampling of various periods of his career and it was really magical. Each song was preceeded by a story about how the song came to be and the entire crowd of 150 stood enraptured by each tune, sung by Dennis with simple piano accompaniment. It's a very sweet film, I definitely recommend it. It plays two more times: 5:00 PM, Monday March 10th - Alamo Lamar 2, 7:30 PM, Thursday March 13th - Alamo Lamar 2.
Next up, my first actual movie of the fest, Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. So, maybe this isn't a high-brow "festival" type movie, but I was really charmed by the first film. I remember it seriously taking me off guard the first time I saw it. I thought "this movie shouldn't be this snappy and so full of weirdly off-kilter humor." And Neil Patrick Harris... good god, this movie completely reinvigorated his career and made me consider him in a whole new light. So the good news is that the sequel is every bit as solid as the first. It has very much the same rhythm and feel as the first installment. The writing team of Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg is back for this one not only with a screenwriting credit, but with their co-directing debut as well. Neil Patrick Harris is back with a furious vengeance, even more loopy and hedonistic than in the first. Rob Corddry is about as funny and dementedly patriotic as I've ever seen him. The sold-out crowd at the Paramount was SO into the movie that I felt like I missed every other joke in the aftermath of laughter from the joke before. With the Judd Apatow universe and now the Harold and Kumar franchise, I am really excited about what is shaping up to be a new golden age of comedy; smart, snappy, and irreverent comedy. Harold and Kumar doesn't have any more festival screenings, but we're opening it up at the Alamo Drafthouse on April 25.
Next up was the secret screening presented by Fantastic Fest, AICN and SXSW which ended up being THE WACKNESS, one of the hot buzz films out of Sundance 2008. By the sales pitch from the studio, I was expecting a wacky pot comedy, but this was way more of a disfunctional family drama mixed with a Holden-Caulfiled-esque coming of age drama. It was funny and made me smile and laugh quite a bit, but set your expectations more for a drama than something along the lines of Harold and Kumar. That said, I really liked the film, in particular the friendship between Josh Peck, the story's drug-dealing, awkward protagonist, and Ben Kingsley, his client who pays for his weed with somewhat erratic psycho-analysis. Again, a charmer of a film, I definitely recommend.
I'm only 2 films in but personally feel I am batting 1000. I'll check back in Monday with by Sunday wrap-up.