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SXSW 2007: What Went Down

by William Goss

Since I had failed to thoroughly chronicle my previous spring break in awesome Austin, I felt it'd be worth a go with this year's outing to the best fest in the best town with the best films and the best people (to put it lightly).

For a much fuller and funnier take on some of the same, I do encourage you to partake in Eric D. Snider's coverage. May mine serve as a companion piece to complement his work: the Letters from Iwo Jima to his Flags of Our Fathers, the Funny Lady to his Funny Girl.

(Mine has pictures. His has jokes. Seriously. Go. Now.)

Day 1 - Friday, 3.9

I finally arrive in Austin, and what doth approach but the borrowed chariot of Alamo Drafthouse owner and all-around nice guy Tim League, occupied by Scott Weinberg, Eric D. Snider, and Jason Whyte. Soon enough, we were picking up Laura Kyle and en route to the Austin Convention Center for fun with badge pick-up (Laura's somehow took forever, even after Erik Childress and the just-joined Eugene Novikov, with whom we had met up after we'd arrived). We dashed downstairs and procured our complimentary tote bags, filled with programs and little else worth keeping. The bags themselves were plastered with the Grindhouse posters on one side, boosting up hopes that the film itself might show as part of a special secret screening of sorts (it didn't; as it turns out, nothing did).

Given that Erik and I had already seen The Lookout and everyone else had managed to see Disturbia, Erik and I headed off to the latter at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown whilst everyone else made their way to Alan Cumming's (apparently atrocious) Suffering Man's Charity and The Lookout after that.

A quick word about the Alamo Drafthouse: heaven simply has to disappoint. They have moviegoing with meals down to a science, from the uber-discreet service to the amusing clips assembled by theme depending on what's to play next. Arguably, the only thing better than the Drafthouse Downtown (as featured in this pic taken by Cinematical's certifiably awesome Jette Kernion) is the Drafthouse on South Lamar - six screens, stadium seating, adjustable armrests, and awesomeness out the ass, people.

Introducing the film was Harry Knowles, of Ain't It Cool News, who began gushing over the film with the barest of difficulty - as did a good portion of the audience - especially with star Shia LaBeouf and director D.J. Caruso in attendance. However, for some of us, Disturbia (2.5 stars) plays out like an exceptionally coy PG-13 update of Rear Window that only figures out how to do things right come act three, and man, is it too little, too late. Childress and I bolted during the expected applause and just prior to the inevitably gushfest that would be the Q&A.

At some point, Childress went elsewhere while I joined Weinberg, Kyle, and Snider for Them (Ils) (3.5 stars) at the South Lamar, which all but cuts to the chase - it runs about 77 minutes - as a couple finds themselves facing a home invasion. Shot in natural lighting and, for a good portion, pretty much real-time, it eventually builds into a palpably compelling pursuit, and by that, I mean some sequences of actual sit-straight-don't-blink-don't-breathe tension. It takes a little long to get started, and the revealing of the culprits - based on true events, after all - takes away from the experience a little, but for that solid portion, it works like gangbusters and then some.

This film helped bring to light the fact that three of the opening night films - Disturbia, The Lookout, and Them - opened with car accidents of varying severity. Sure enough, other films would proceed to showcase an auto collision as that tragic accident that still haunts someone to this day. After all, you can't have indie films without tragedies to get over.

We then all reunited at the Alamo Downtown for Mulberry Street (2 stars), an initially admirable and eventually boring low-budget horror feature about rats sticking it to a slew of Manhattan residents, and it was during this that the ever-accurate festival maxim came to mind: every film, no matter how good, will feel every bit as long as it is.

Truer words...

Day 2 - Saturday, 3.10

Since he had been inducted into either the Austin or Texas Film Hall of Fame or some such honor the night before, Saturday morn brought with it a panel with Bill Paxton at the Convention Center, so attend it did I, Whyte, Weinberg, and Childress.

Beforehand, AP critic Christy Lemire begged for a recorder to borrow (hers was either lost or broken), and when no one budged, it left me to wonder aloud if her much-lambasted 300 review had greater consequences than she might've anticipated. (When a few of us accompanied her briefly after the panel, this conclusion was shared, and she gave the fleeting indication that this may very well have been why no one had helped her.)

Amusing anecdotes and all, the highlight of the panel was after, when - in spite of some jackass getting about eighty posters autographed from the man - Weinberg, Childress, and Whyte each got a picture with Paxton and more than a couple of words, much to their - and my own - glee. (I had stood off to the side, not willing to risk the crowd, but in hindsight, I may very well have stood a shot to get a shot. Alas...)

The lot of us joined Snider at the Paramount for When a Man Falls in the Forest (3 stars), a dramedy in which three middle-aged men try to figure their lives out. It's almost every bit the yawner, complete with sloppy ending and Sharon Stone either sobbing or shoplifting, were it not for a) one breathless Timothy Hutton monologue and b) just about any scene with Dylan Baker's socially inept janitor (Office Space's Milton with less mumble, as it were).

Childress, Kyle, Whyte, and I remained at the Paramout for The Ten (3.5 stars), a scattershot series of sketches based on the Ten Commandments from comedy troupe The State (responsible for Wet Hot American Summer, among many other things). It's all hit-and-miss, with only a solitary gem emerging from the bunch, involving virgin librarian Gretchen Mol falling for none other than Jesus H. Christ Himself (a very funny Justin Theroux).

Whyte, Childress, and I then proceeded to the South Lamar, where Erik was going to attend the recent remake of Sisters while Jason and I hoped to make the sole screening of the slasher All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. However, due to chronic miscommunication amongst the S. Lamar staff, ticketholders were let in earlier than usual, and a bunch of us badgeholders - maybe half of whom were press - found ourselves turned away from a packed house.

As such, we swiftly dipped into Sisters, which itself either sold out or came damn close. It was there that Whyte and I finally introduced ourselves to Cinematical writer James Rocchi, not to mention a UT student named Jonathan who was also turned away from Mandy Lane (we'll come back to him later).

Sisters (2.5 stars) was based on a dePalma flick that I certainly admired, but didn't necessarily care for, due to its intentionally schizoid story. To be further held against this version was a wooden performance in a critical role by Lou Doillon, a couple of super-stilted lines, and a general lack of any motive behind actually bothering to remake it.

Whyte and I then proceeded back to the Paramount for a screening of Manufacturing Dissent (3 stars), a documentary for both fans and foes of Michael Moore that, in the course of examining his tactics and hoping to gleam some insight, begins to reveal Moore's generally sketchy behavior before and behind the camera. It's about as objective as it could hope to be with Moore dodging the filmmakers almost as much as GM CEO Roger Smith dodged Moore himself in Roger & Me, so those who think they are interested should be. On a sidenote, eFilmCritic does get a brief blurb amongst a collection of quotes panning Moore's fictional effort, Canadian Bacon, so, um, go us.

We then both joined Childress and Eugene at the Alamo Downtown for Black Sheep (3.5 stars), a heartily amusing horror-comedy about killer sheep running amok on a New Zealand isle. Besides the brisk pace getting all that pesky exposition out of the way, it's the top-notch WETA effects that make the film a good deal more entertaining than it has any right to be.

Day 3 - Sunday, 3.11

I don't usually do panels. For one thing, they're rarely interesting enough to distract from a movie, and for another, this was only my third festival. However, this time around, I'd be hitting three of these, two of which were this Sunday morning: one with Robert Rodriguez discussing Grindhouse and its origins (although not nearly as much as he coulda/shoulda been) and sharing the occasional clip to whet our collective appetite; the other with Scott Weinberg chatting up horror with genre filmmakers and fans.

Both panels were packed and shared one buzzkill: Mr. Knowles, who delighted everyone with unwarranted anecdotes and name-dropping, especially since they were coming from the so-called 'moderator.' While director Eli Roth fell ill and couldn't show up, his Hostel 2 clip made it and didn't show anything. At all. Like, a teaser of a teaser. What can ya do.

In the downpour that had either already begun or was just about to, Laura and I made our way to the S. Lamar for our only shows of the day. She joined me for the quirky and already overrated Eagle vs. Shark (2.5 stars; Laura liked it), followed by the important and mildly preachy Darfur doc The Devil Came On Horseback (3.5 stars; Laura loved it, but serious docs seem to be her foray, so more power to her).

She then departed, leaving me to attend the eagerly awaited midnight movie The Signal all by my lonesome. It was a surprisingly small, but tight-knit crowd, likely due in no small part to the weather (I sat through Horseback due in no small part to it). Luckily, The Signal (4 stars) didn't disappoint, with its three directors collaborating on a collective apocalypse set off by a mind-messing TV/radio/phone frequency of sorts. The first part (sorry, 'transmission') is nice and raw, the second is surprisingly funny, and the third found me unfortunately nodding off during a good portion of, although I still got the gist of it, I swear.

Just about the entire main cast and crew was there for the Q&A, and given that it had already been brought up at Sundance and was only likely to be brought up yet again, I went ahead and threw out the question regarding the story's likeness to that of Stephen King's Cell, and despite my most sensitive and delicate of rhetoric, arms were thrown up and groans were let out before they let us in on how they found out and how they ultimately could care less, since both are out there and can stand on their own (even in his absence, Eli Roth had managed to bring the day full circle - he's directing the film adaptation of King's novel).

Desperately seeking a cab number in the pouring rain, who should I run into but UT film student Jonathan from the Sisters-Mandy Lane debacle there at the Lamar two nights before, who offers me a ride since he's headed that way. It's wet, it's cold, and it wasn't all that creepy, so I eagerly took him up on it.

Sure enough, Jonathan's a cool guy, not one of those film majors all too giddy to bash you over the head with their enthusiasm for the cinema. I ended up seeing him at one or two other screenings, but I failed to get either his full name or any contact info, so, if for the oddest of reasons you may reading this, dude, you're a cool guy, and thanks for not, like, raping me or anything.

(Due to spacing issues, pictured here are Jason and the Halperins, a pleasant pair of publicists in town with the human-interest-tastic Lost in Woonsocket that we met at badge pick-up and would run into several times since.)

Day 4 - Monday, 3.12

Since I had slept in slightly, I'm almost positive this is the morning that I took the time to watch a screener of Everything's Gone Green (3 stars), a pleasant but too familiar tale of twenty-something slackerdom and whether money means happiness, so on, so forth.

I then dashed down to the Paramount just in the nick of time to catch Skills Like This (4 stars), a wholly insubstantial but wholly enjoyable farce about a failed writer whose decision to take up bank robbery has consequences on the dynamic of him and his closest friends. There's a very loose comedic sensibility that takes some getting used to at first, but I found it to be such breezy fun that I'd be hardpressed to hold very much against it.

Within the first ten minutes of placing myself in the next-to-back row, I hear a very familiar giggle and turn around to find that Laura had arrived late and planted herself right behind me. Afterwards, we joined Whyte, Eugene, Childress, and Snider, who had also been in attendance. It is here that I will deny any and all allegations of necking between the two of us. So that's that.

While some opted to plant themselves in line on our behalf for the evening's much-anticipated Knocked Up screening, Whyte and I went off to the Convention Center to catch the doc Cat Dancers (3.5 stars), about a married pair of lion tamers who end up sharing a peculiar sexual dynamic once joined by another man, and sure enough, tragedy befalls the group when the kitties aren't so pretty. I had run into Jette Kernion of Cinematical prior to that screening, but this was the first time I recall being in her company specifically. Fortunately, the Cinematical writers I've met are about as down-to-earth as you could hope for, save for that Weinberg fellow...

With Jette having already seen Knocked Up at last December's Butt-Numb-A-Thon (hosted by none other than Knowles), she left us to head back to the Paramount for that screening. Besides Mulberry Street on the first night of the fest, this was the only other time that all seven (!) of our writers were gathered, so the moment was celebrated with the taking of a picture or three. Squinting into the sun or not, I think it came out damn well. (Clockwise from top left: Erik | Laura | Scott | Jason | myself | Eric | Eugene)

(Many thanks to the Halperins for taking that pic and keeping us company.)

Not just the biggest film of the fest, Knocked Up (4.5 stars) also turned out to be the best. Every bit as hilarious and heartfelt as director Judd Apatow's The 40-Year-Old Virgin, it may run just over two hours, but I can't imagine they could trim another second. I'll save my hyperbole for the review, but let's just say that, it's so good that our David Cornelius might just end up knocking it. ;)

As we shuffled out of the Paramount, a fact that had been public many times before was swiftly coming to a crest. See, everyone was heading off to the big Austin Chronicle shindig, and I wasn't gonna be any less nineteen any time soon. Sure enough, we get to the corner, and Scott asks who's going to the party.

Not only does everyone raise their hand, they all step towards him, leaving me to cradle my schedule beneath a lamppost in what must've been the single most dramatic act of ostracization in my life to date. It was almost kinda beautiful, leading Scott to commission one and all to give me a hug before parting ways.

Yeah. Something special.

Despite eagerly awaiting the Paramount's next screening, the Anna Faris stoner farce Smiley Face, the line went far enough to feed my concern about getting in (once more, hindsight suggests that I likely would have made it in), but there was a press screening of it the next morning at the ripe hour of 9 AM, so I instead opted to catch the already-panned Flakes over at the Alamo Downtown. It was there that I sat next to and was available to introduce myself to Variety's Joe Leydon (pictured at right), whose blog I'd been browsing every now and then since, well, SXSW '06. A perfectly swell guy, New Orleans native Leydon seemed to feel that the shot-pre-Katrina Flakes caught the French Quarter just right, which I found peculiar since New Orlenas native Jette had resented it along the same lines.

Wherever it was set, I still found Flakes (2 stars) to be a perpetually laughless feature-length sitcom that you couldn't just change the channel on, but I was gonna try and not to hold it against Leydon. Not too much, at least.

Day 5 - Tuesday, 3.13

So I missed that 9 AM screening of Smiley Face. Imagine that.

However, I wasn't about to miss the hey-that-actually-does-sound-interesting doc Helvetica, which had become a hot ticket once Interactive badges were also invited to attend. In line, I was fortunate to get the last poster handed out, which I dug for its cleverness and simplicity, which is pretty much why I enjoyed Helvetica (4 stars) itself. I was joined by Whyte and Rocchi, and we engaged our Interactive neighbors with a few solid minutes of font puns and other geeky jokes ("Tahoma, represent!").

We then parted ways with Rocchi and made our way up to the trade show, where Scott would be interviewing Borderland director Zev Berman for Studio SX, a series of video interviews to be placed online (Childress and Leydon had done one as well). Soon after, we found ourselves dashing over to the Alamo Downtown to catch Blackbird (2.5 stars), a dreary tale of a junkie and the teenage girl he finds himself taken with. Although neither original nor terrible at first, it eventually collapses into a frustratingly protracted death scene. In fact, I think it's still ending as we speak.

Although I nearly stayed for Scott Walker: 30 Century Man out of nothing other than convenience, I took Childress and company up on a last-minute invitation to come over to their hotel room and catch up on some screeners. By the time the back-patting shenanigans of Lost in Woonsocket (2.5 stars) was over, everyone else had either made their way to the awards party or some seedy bar where they likely check IDs, so with limited time and interest, I made it just over halfway through a screener of The Prisoner, or: How I Planned To Kill Tony Blair (3 stars), which tells the intriguing enough story of a falsly imprisoned Iraqi citizen, but employs a gaudy comic book motif that doesn't help in the least.

I then proceeded back over to the Alamo Downtown, where Snider had joined Whyte and I for Confessions of a Superhero (4 stars), a strikingly introspective documentary about those who patrol Hollywood Blvd. dressed in costume. (Batman is more batshit than you could've imagined.) Beforehand, we had been offered Hills Have Eyes 2 tees from a young guy who seemed awfully nice for a studio shill. He took our pictures with the shirts promoting the very movie they were hiding from us, which just tickled me so.

Whyte and I then lingered at the Alamo and joined Joe Leydon for Undead or Alive: A Zombedy (3 stars), a zombie western romp starring Chris Kattan that's kinda amusing, but not exactly as much fun as its campy tone purports. Leydon wondered aloud why they just don't make a serious zombie western, almost along the lines of something like Ravenous, because this one might've been more fun had it been made with a straight face. Not only was it a good idea, but when a Variety critic leans over and comments during a screening, you suddenly feel like less of a hypocrite for doing it elsewhere. (Oh, we all had, and we all do, although infrequently and softly, no?)

Day 6 - Wednesday, 3.14

Wednesday is always when Film downshifts at SXSW, seeing as the awards have already been given and the musicians begin making their way for their precious portion of the festival. Amongst a crowd of interchangeable guitarists, I joined Jette at the Alamo Downtown for He Was a Quiet Man (3 stars), a peculiar dark comedy about Christian Slater finding himself to be the inadvertent hero after he shoots a colleague who beats him to the punch with an office rampage. Slater's pets talk to him, and Elisha Cuthbert ends up quadriplegic, complete with colostomy bag. It's that kind of funny-ish.

After discovering that the press lounge had now become exclusively available to Music press, I ran into the Halperins downstairs at a screening of Call of the Hummingbird (2.5 stars), which I attended out of nothing other than convenience. It turned out to be an hour-long commercial for a hippie-happy eco-friendly festival down in Brazil (I'm pretty sure that was the place).

The Halperins were kind enough to get me into the nearby Canadian party, which didn't have much to offer by that point, but it was still a nice thought nonetheless. We then stopped by a neighboring ice cream truck (you read that right), so we headed towards Stubb's BBQ with ice cream cones in hand. If that ain't cool, I don't know what is.

Nothing was really going on at Stubb's, so I went ahead and made my way over to the Paramount for a screening of The Lather Effect, where I met up with Jen and David, friends from last year. Suddenly, everyone heard a loud POP! and as we looked around, we came to realize that a glass door right next to us had begun to crack. It seemed that the bus had run over a pebble or something similar, launching right past us and right into the door. Had it been just a bit lower, someone could've been seriously injured, and as nice as nostalgia fest The Lather Effect (3.5 stars) was, it surely wasn't worth a head injury.

Right after Lather at the Paramount was a special screening of Reign Over Me (3.5 stars), which may or may not have been the US premiere. Writer-director Mike Binder and stars Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle were in attendance, as were a pair of fucking hyenas on either end of the row behind Whyte, Snider, and I. I mean, every other line, howling without the least consideration for anyone else in the house (not to mention the ringing phones and giggling children). The movie was decent, even if the experience was horrendous.

Since the festival program had claimed Reign was only 85 minutes long when it ran more like 125, many of us missed a midnight screening as such (Snider opted to leave early instead). However, the Q&A was worth staying for, if only for the occasional reminders that, hey, Cheadle's just as funny as Sandler, people.

Afterwards, I joined Whyte and Hollywood Elsewhere writer and fellow Floridian Moises Chiullan (pictured at right with the fiancée) to get in a word with Binder. Since he was just barely turning away, I had to spit out the one thing I'd been waiting to say all along: "The new Joel Schumacher, huh?" (Click and scroll down to understand.)

Curious, Binder turned around and asked if I had been the one to say that, and I said of course not, but Moises and I still couldn't understand why anyone would call anyone that (Moises noted that even Joel Schumacher isn't the new Joel Schumacher). He laughed it off, Moises and him mentioned something about arranging an interview, and he was off, as were we.

Day 7 - Thursday, 3.15

The pinnacle of productivity at a film festival seems to be catching as many movies in a day as the schedule allows. I had pulled it off once last year, and I was ready to do it once more: six in a row.

I was somehow up and at it, making my way to the Convention Center for Election Day (4 stars), an unexpectedly engaging documentary following the various activities across America on that first Tuesday in November 2004. Shot in many areas and regarding more races than just the Presidential, it makes for an impressively broad glimpse into our electoral process.

I left for the Paramount where I joined Scott and Jason for 638 Ways to Kill Castro (3 stars), a doc about all the guys who nearly assassinated the Cuban leader, how they would've done it, and why they didn't. Unfortunately, the filmmaker doesn't seem to find the subject matter alone fascinating, and decides to add in a childish amount of unnecessary archive footage and sound effects that takes away from the presentation.

We remained there, and were joined by Laura for the following showing of A Lawyer Walks Into a Bar... (3.5 stars), all about fledgling lawyers taking the Bar Exam (one gentleman is making his 42nd attempt). It's moderately engaging by default, in a competitive sense, and the filmmakers don't do much to either enhance or hinder the stories being told.

Whyte and I remained still at the Paramount, and had joined camera-shy Jen for the following, Bella (3 stars), a perfectly decent dramedy about an afternoon between a man and a woman in NYC. I could elaborate, but its simplicity is one of its greater assets.

Knowles was to host a special early screening of the new TMNT flick at the S. Lamar, and Moises offered to try and get me in. However, that was twice the trip for half a chance to see something opening next week, instead of something I might never see, so I passed. With Moises' blessing, I then drifted over to the Drafthouse for Exiled (3 stars), an Asian gangster flick with cool shootouts and a plot I could care about, but easily decided against such exertion.

I was then joined by Jen, Jonathan (!), and Whyte for Borderland (3.5 stars), which Whyte had already seen. Inspired by true events (natch), it's about a teen that was kidnapped by drug-dealing religious fanatics with every intention of being sacrificed to protect their business. The first hour is painfully conventional where'd-so-and-so-go material, but it eventually picks up with a climax with enough of a visceral kick to help redeem itself.

Day 8 - Friday, 3.16

Since Scott had to review the unscreened Dead Silence for Cinematical, I opted to join him and his volunteer pal Greg - of which there are many stories - once Scott got out of his screening of The Lather Effect at the Paramount. As I waited outside, I exchanged a half-assed nod with Lather co-star William Mapother and to fill the awkwardness, I spat out "good job" and he said "thank you," even if - at first glance - I may've just left that screening, or perhaps I'm a rabid Lost fan (no and no). Feeling a need to both pee and find out what part the movie is at, I try to get inside and am greeted once more by Tom Cruise's cousin, biding time until the Q&A.

Movie ends, Scott exits, Greg arrives, we go. Dead Silence (3 stars) turns out to be a half-decent throwback to the old-school Universal thrillers, but the folks clustered behind us see fit to run their mouths from frame one, and Scott doesn't hesitate to hush them, much to their chagrin.

After that enlightening experience, I return with Scott to his room so he can crank out a Silence review while I listen to music, skim a magazine, and munch on a perfectly adequate pecan pie that was apparently itself leaps and bounds above the actual film made by those who had sent it to Childress. (Then again, Severance had offered some advice regarding found pies...)

I proceeded to the Paramount and ran into the Halperins for one of the more rightfully lauded films at the fest, Audience of One (4 stars). It's a doc about a preacher who sees his first film at age forty (The Lion King, if you must know) and then decides that God has charged him making the greatest movie of all time to spread his message to the masses, one which the pastor/director describes as "Star Wars meets The Ten Commandments." Oh, what a glorious train wreck it makes for. Laura, who was at that screening after all, and I were both envious of Whyte's experience of the Q&A at the first screening, during which the whackjob himself actually showed up. Fun, fun.

To cap off a day where everyone is kinda burned out, we hit the South Lamar for Grimm Love (or Butterfly: A Grimm Love Story / 3.5 stars), based on the real-life case of a couple of Germans consenting to cannibalism. It's all kinds of admirable and deliberate in its matter-of-fact manner, although a framing story with Keri Russell as an American student researching the case adds little, and while there is an arguable climax, the whole film lacks a much-needed moment of catharsis. It doesn't help that the chicken strips at the Alamo tasted kinda funny that night...

Day 9 - Saturday, 3.17

My usual bus route into downtown was interrupted by a stream of sign-toting hippies clogging Congess, the main thoroughfare, with their St. Patrick's Day peace protest parade. After a few blocks, the protesters were wisely diverted off of Congress, but I still had to hike it a few blocks to catch another bus to make it to the S. Lamar for a screening of the also-inspired-by-true-events Trigger Man (2.5 stars) with Weinberg, Rocchi, Jen, and David. Trigger demonstrates why so many supposed slow-burn thrillers rarely work: the first half is simply too dull. The camera is relentlessly handheld during early scenes where a character contemplates buying a soda, and matters don't improve once the interchangable protags start roaming around in search of game. Sure enough, halfway in, the wrong shots ring out and shit goes down, but by that point, the gunshots serve as more of a wake-up call than a cause for concern.

After getting a much-needed lift from Jette back into downtown, I pissed away a good deal of time with Rocchi in hopes of catching some bands. We eventually parted ways and I swiftly managed to crank out my first review of the fest (on the last day of it, of course). Hey, something was better than nothing, and since my battery was soon the latter, I took off to the Paramount extra early and eventually joined Whyte and Kyle for the closing night screening of Park Chan-wook's latest, I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK (4 stars), a disarmingly winsome look into one asylum and at one patient in particular, who does in fact believe herself to be a cyborg.

Whyte, Kyle, and I remained at the Paramount and joined Rocchi for the Morgan Spurlock-produced doc What Would Jesus Buy? (2.5 stars), an excessively smug portrait of Reverend Billy and His Gospel from their Church of Stop Shopping, and their various crusades against the commercialization of Christmas. The message isn't exactly new, and the messengers just make matters that much worse. Even with the best of intentions and the same of interests, I don't care to be preached to, and for ninety minutes, that's all I got.

Eager to end the festival on a more upbeat note, Weinberg, Whyte, Kyle, and I headed towards the Alamo Downtown (the site of my last movie last year to boot), where Tim League himself (yes, the van guy) introduced the New Zealand daredevil romp The Devil Dared Me To (3.5 stars). The plot is familiar underdog-rises-to-fame-and-legend fare, but star/co-writer/director Chris Stapp knows how to work matters into a crude rhythm without overdoing it, not to mention the single most effective assault on a guy's groin since Hard Candy at SXSW '06.

So, there you have it. Thanks to Matt Dentler, Elizabeth Derczo, Tim, Karrie, Jonathan at UT, Jette, James, Jen, David, Greg, Moises, Mark, all of the volunteers, all of our writers, and any other person kind enough to give me so much as the time of day. Here's to hoping that I may return once more to SXSW for spring break; after all, I'd like to think that Austin isn’t gonna keep itself weird.

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originally posted: 04/03/07 16:51:39
last updated: 03/06/08 00:50:13
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