With Sundance (the Goliath of film festivals) behind us, we venture into the David of film festivals: South By South West (SXSW). Whereas Sundance, Cannes, and Toronto are filled with big films from big directors shooting big stars, SXSW’s line-up is made of mostly unknowns carefully curated by the festival’s organizers.
Along with a couple big premieres (last year: Paul, Source Code), there are a handful of smaller indie gems that will continue to build buzz until the year is over (last year: Beginners, Another Earth).
Reviews Editor Geoff Henao and myself will be covering SXSW 2012 as the festival plays out March 9th (Friday) to the 17th. We’ll be seeing 30+ films, but these are the ones we are most excited to see.
Director: Matt Piedmont
What is it? Shot as an exaggerated telenovela, Casa de Mi Padre is about Armando Alvarez (Will Ferrell), a rancher looking over his family’s ranch in Mexico. When Armando inherited his father’s ranch, he also inherited his debts. His younger brother, Raul (Diego Luna), offers to take care of the debts; however, a love triangle breaks out between the two brothers and Raul’s fiancee, Sonia (Genesis Rodriguez). To escalate the tension even further, it seems that Mexico’s most-powerful drug lord, Onza (Gael Garcia Bernal), has a role to play in all of this.
Why do I care? For one, the entire film was shot in Spanish. Yes, Will Ferrell will hable en Espanol. Another reason is that the film is RIPE for parody and satire. I’m not the biggest Ferrell fan, but Casa de Mi Padre could end up being one of a VERY select few exceptions.
Director: Adam Sherman
What is it? Crazy Eyes is about Zach (Lukas Haas), a young father stuck between his love for his ex-wife and his new girlfriend, Rebecca (Madeline Zima), whom he refers to as “Crazy Eyes.” As his social and family life begins to break down, he begins to find solace from an unlikely source: his son.
What do I care? I’m a sucker for indie films that analyze various forms of relationships, whether they be romantic, sexual, or familial. I think Crazy Eyes could find the right balance that meshes all of those relationships well. Plus, it stars Lukas Haas, who starred as the unexpected drug lord, The Pin, in one of my favorite films, Brick.
Director: Jordan Roberts
What is it? Frank (Charlie Hunnam) has been tortured by his brother, Bruce (Chris O’Dowd), his entire life. However, after Bruce is able to kick his addiction problems to the curb, Frank expects their relationship to become better. Of course, they don’t, and a journey unfolds, including a sex tape and Ron Perlman in drag.
What do I care? The first synopsis I read for Frankie Go Boom read, “a flik by bruce about his little brother frank who’s a crybaby fuck who shudnt do lame-ass emberrissing shit if he doznt want people 2 see it on the internet.” If that doesn’t intrigue you, I don’t know what will. As I continued to look into the film, I found out about the amazing cast (which also includes Lizzy Caplan) and Ron Perlman playing a transsexual. It has the makings for a solid dark comedy that’s destined for cult status. Or, you know, a really, really funny movie.
Director: Bobcat Goldthwait
What is it? Contemplating suicide after being diagnosed with a brain tumor, Frank (Joel Murray) watches an endless amount of television. However, after discovering a spoof of My Super Sweet 16, he becomes disenchanted with life and pop culture, killing the subject of the show’s episode. Teamed up with the recently deceased girl’s classmate, they go on a mission to kill all the rude people in America.
What do I care? Teeming with black humor and political/social satire, God Bless America addresses everything wrong in popular culture and society, and “fixes” these problems with violence. Basically, everything you wish you could do to all of the celebrities and stupid people but can’t because of “laws” is taken care of in this film. And I’m going to indulge in all of it and live my life vicariously through these characters.
Director: Colin Trevorrow
What is it? Honestly, I’ve tried to keep myself in the dark as much as possible with Safety Not Guaranteed. What I do know is that it’s a time-travel film.
What do I care? I’m a HUGE sucker for time-travel films, so Safety Not Guaranteed was obviously on my radar the moment I read about it. What sweetens the pot is the ensemble cast, which includes Aubrey Plaza, Kristen Bell, Jeff Garlin, and Mark Duplass. Time travel and comedy – two of my favorite film elements.
Director: Nir Paniry
What is it? Thomas Jacobs is at the forefront of new technology that lets individuals relive memories from their past. When he is asked to use this technology to enter the mind of an accused criminal to prove him guilty, he is hesitant but agrees. However, the experiment goes awry and he finds himself trapped in the supposed killer’s mind for years. Now, he must work with the convicted in order to solve who the real killer is … from inside the convicted’s mind. Yeah, I’m kind of confused too!
Why do I care? SXSW 2012 might not have a sci-fi film on the same scale as Duncan Jones’ Source Code, but sometimes resourceful, high-concept indies make the most memorable science fiction. Extracted bears a lot in common with Inception in concept and Premier in execution. The Cell, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and other sci-fi films have touched on similar ideas, but Extracted seems to take things a couple steps further. If Paniry pulls off the concept with a smart film, Extracted could be a new sci-fi classic.
Directors: Ernesto Foronda, Silas Howard
What is it? A high-strung, diligent nurse must return to Los Angeles to retrieve bone marrow for a transplant. Along her trip, she bumps into her ex. In a freak accident, she loses the marrow and now the two set off to retrieve it within a 24-hour period.
Why do I care? Sunset Stories is the long-awaited follow-up from Ernesto Foronda, who wrote Better Luck Tomorrow a decade ago — a charming, energetic film that did the impossible of glamorizing suburban, high school life. Sunset Stories has a much more familiar plot, but I still have high hopes that Foronda will capture some of the same style and character of his writing debut.
Director: Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
What is it? Though plot details are scarce, Intruders seems to be a traditional haunted house film. John Farrow (Clive Owen) and his daughter become haunted by a ghost in their new home. Reality is blurred, scary stuff happens, etc.
Why do I care? Intruders may be a traditional haunted house film, but I’m a sucker for a good one. Furthermore, I’m a fan of the highly underrated Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. He knows how to capture a specific tone like Christopher Nolan, while not being afraid to experiment with the camera like Alfonso Cuaron. Even if the plot ends up being predictable, it will likely be told in a very distinct, original way.
Director: Drew Goddard
What is it? Five friends go to a remote cabin for a school break, only to discover things are all weird and ’80s horror-film-like. Judging by the trailer, there are ghosts and some strange technology going on.
Why do I care? When was the last time a “stupid teens in the woods”-horror film made you curious? With genre deconstructionist Joss Whedon (Firefly) writing this mysterious adventure alongside Drew Goddard (Cloverfield), who also directs, Cabin in the Woods is a film bound to be full of unexpected twists, clever writing, and likable characters. It may just be the most fun I have in a theater at SXSW!
Directors: Phil Lord, Chris Miller
What is it? Based on a cheesy 1980s TV series, 21 Jump Street follows two undercover cops who infiltrate a school as students in order to reveal some seedy crime activity. A remarkably skinny Jonah Hill and Haywire beefcake Channing Tatum star in this buddy-cop comedy.
Why do I care? Because the trailer is hysterical! It’s not often that a movie trailer has me grinning ear-to-ear for its entire duration. Of course, that’s not always a sign that the film will be of the same quality. but I’m willing to take a chance on this one.
Will you be at SXSW?
What films are you excited to see?