SXSW 2011 – Days 2 & 3

More film news from SXSW, including '13 Assassins', 'Paul' and Conan O'Brien.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

I’ll be bringing you daily updates of my South by Southwest Festival experiences. The first update covers the second two days of my time at SXSW.


Sunday, 3/13/11


Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop 

We knew Conan handled the NBC situation gracefully and returned in top form. We even heard about his live shows if we didn’t get tickets ourselves. We didn’t know how his comedy mind works even in his downtime. This documentary on his 46 show tour reveals the satirical wit Conan O’Brien uses to analyze business and personal situations daily. He can be demanding, especially of his crew, resentful when adoration becomes exhausting. The doc is a profound depiction of his depth, and it’s never not funny.


13 Assassins 

Takashi Miike’s samurai movie is just plain awesome. A samurai lord is torturing and murdering his servants. We can’t have that, so an opposing clan assembles a team to take him out. The politics are a little unwieldy but the atmosphere and character carries it. The big battle is just insanely explosive. You could just watch that over and over but it’s quality all the way.



There’s definitely a piece missing without Edgar Wright, but Simon Pegg and Nick Frost can still do a genre comedy on their own. Their homage to sci-fi is like the glory days of ‘80s comedies where they just kept making good jokes and the plot was kind of exciting. They could just make references all day and quote every line from the classics and I’d be happy. They really get the source material, but the heartfelt moments work and it’s a memorable ensemble of great characters you don’t see on the poster.



This was my first dud of the festival, and I’m in the minority. An audience of 1200 laughed but I thought it was just like every other stupid wedding movie. Annie (Kristin Wiig) gets upstaged planning Lillian (Maya Rudolph)’s wedding by Lillian’s new friend Helen (Rose Byrne). A poop scene in a dress shop is as outrageous as it gets. They don’t even get to the bachelorette party. The jokes are all just whiny jealousy and it’s so long, it stretches further when they could just hit the beat and wrap it up. Annie’s love interest takes way too much time and there’s still a wedding to get to. At 90 minutes, Bridesmaids would be forgettable. Two hours is just rubbing it in.



Monday 3/14/11 

Early this afternoon, a representative of Marvell tweeted me to invite me to their party tonight. More on that later. First, the movies.



Septien really is crazy indie filmmaking just to throw some weird sh** in a movie. I think director Michael Tully knows it by the way he introduced the film and spoke about realizing his vision. I could see invisible quotation marks hovering over his head. It’s about a trio of brothers living on a farm. One draws pictures of monsters with penises. One returns after years of absence, silent and introverted except when he hustles athletes for money. The eldest holds it all together in a quaint way and brings food to his friend sleeping in a tire. The septic tank breaks and the plumber brings back traumatic memories. Hey, it’s all open to interpretation.



And Bellflower is a familiar indie festival movie disguised as a post apocalyptic Pimp My Ride. Two friends are building a Mad Max car, complete with homemade flamethrower. Really, it’s about their love lives. The shy one meets a cool girl at a bar and they have a sweet romance. Then it gets weird and he gets hurt, and takes out his pain by burning her stuff and turning to her other cute friend as a rebound. They keep talking about The Medusa (their car) and give a few demos, and the visual style blows out the picture, but it’s not really a twist on the “young people talk about their relationships” movies. The new young actors are solid though. We could expect to see them again.


Ain’t It Cool News Secret Screening 

For their 15th anniversary, Harry Knowles scheduled a secret screening as part of the SXSW festival. It turned out to be a classic of a favorite film of his and special guest Guillermo del Toro. Dragonslayer was the movie. I’ve got to admit, I won’t win del Toro’s respect on this one. I get the old school effects work, but the plot must be a love letter to medieval sorcery fantasy because that’s not my thing and I was just left out. Hearing del Toro talk about it was fascinating. He saw themes of sympathetic creatures and church/state politics. I just saw British people in suits of armor talking about magic.


Marvell Party 

Even at 1 in the morning, the rooftop of the Iron Cactus bar was still pumping music for hot young bodies to throb to as the late night breeze kept things cool. Marvell introduced me to Peter Hoddie, the VP of their Kinoma Platform. Marvell makes hardware that our handheld devices use, and Kinoma is the software. They’d participated in a panel earlier today for the Interactive portion of SXSW. Hoddie is leaving in the morning, but look for Marvell reps walking around throughout the week to offer Marvell goodies.