I may be going to too many film festivals at this point. By the time I got to South by Southwest, I had seen all of the big movies at other festivals like Sundance and Toronto. Most of my favorite movies were movies I had already seen, or big Sundance buzz movies that I finally caught.
Still, people who saw all of these movies for the first time had a great SXSW. Film is only one third of SXSW anyway. They’ve also got a music and interactive festival going on. I stuck to movies and reinforced what I already knew would be some of 2013’s hottest movies, which I will be recommending throughout the year. Click the links to add each movie to your Fanhattan Watchlist!
Alex Winter, remember him from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure/Bogus Journey? He became quite an accomplished director in the ‘90s and his latest is a documentary about Napster. This film will ultimately air on VH1 and it’s a fun look back at a technology we all took for granted, and an important milestone in the development of the entertainment industry in the information age. It’s got all the crazy stories like Metallica speaking out against Napster, and plenty of stories we haven’t heard before.
This movie is probably the mortal enemy of Fanhattan but we like it anyway. Rewind This! is a documentary about VHS. Remember when we had to rent tapes to watch a movie at home? This documentary explores the history of VHS including some amazing discoveries of VHS only films from the ‘80s. It does look ahead to the future of home viewing too. Maybe Fanhattan can be in the sequel.
Paul Walker stars as a father trapped in an abandoned hospital during Hurricane Katrina, keeping his premature newborn alive on a ventilator with a hand cranked generator. Sound intense? It is and Walker totally delivers. The film is essentially a survival thriller as the father must stay awake and alert for 48 hours with limited food and supplies. It is also a drama about a father’s passion and determination, and it works well on both fronts. After Fast and Furious 6, Paul Walker fans can look forward to another intense adventure.
Now I enter into the Sundance Buzz phase of my list. I’d heard so many great things about this documentary I couldn’t wait to see it. Twenty Feet showcases backup singers from music’s greatest hits, profiling four in particular but interviewing many others, and the lead singers who speak very highly of them. Since harmony is my favorite part of music, I adored focusing on the harmonic overlap and hearing those singers perform still. How long do we have to wait for the soundtrack?
I already know this film as Spec Now from all the inside talk at Sundance. You know it’s good if they’re already abbreviating it! It was such a hot ticket at Sundance I could never get to a screening, so when I finally saw it at SXSW, it totally delivered. It’s a charming coming of age high school story, but even deeper than that it’s about a teenage boy (Miles Teller) who doesn’t know how to be loved. That’s quite different than the usual looking for love story. This kid is so damaged he doesn’t even know what to do when a sweet girl (Shailene Woodley) loves him for who he is. I don’t want to give any more away. Just know that all the good things you’ve heard about this movie are true.
This was one big SXSW premiere that totally delivered. Remaking another horror movie, and Sam Raimi’s first feature at that, made us all skeptical. Even at first the new film seemed to retread some of the familiar horrors, albeit more graphically and realistically. By about midway through though this Evil Dead is so relentless, you just don’t know what’s coming at you. Even if it weren’t based on the same story, Evil Dead would be a soul sister of Raimi’s films because it just punishes its characters with glee. There is some tree action and some chainsaw goodness that you’ll recognize, but with new twists and plenty of new thrills.
I saw this highly anticipated film at the Toronto Film Festival last year, thinking there was no way it could really live up to the hype. Disney girls gone bad in a hardcore indie drama? Surely it would wuss out. No, Spring Breakers goes there and on top of seeing Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez and Ashley Benson commit acts of sex and violence, the whole film is shot in an abstract dream of debauchery. By the time James Franco shows up as the drug dealer Alien, he’s not just a crazy character. He’s the perfect man for these bad girls. Spring Breakers rocked Austin and remains one of my favorite movies that played this festival.
You may remember I included Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut in my top movies of Sundance list. The title seems to have lost a word (it was Don Jon’s Addiction before), but continuing its festival run the film remains one of the top movies of the year. Gordon-Levitt plays a ladies man who prefers pornography, and Gordon-Levitt the director crafts a dark romantic comedy with elegance and style.
I’ve been waiting almost two years to tell you about this one. You’re Next premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2011, where Lionsgate bought the rights. However, in the studio system it’s taken a while to find the right spot on the schedule for this film. Now that it’s coming out in August, Lionsgate screened at SXSW. In the film, a gang of killers assaults a family in their cabin, but one of the boys brought a girlfriend (Sharni Vinson) who fights back and her revenge is awesome! I also went to college with screenwriter Simon Barrett and we had the same screenwriting class. I’m so proud of him.
Before Midnight was my favorite film at Sundance and currently my favorite film of 2013. As it played SXSW with local Austinite filmmaker Richard Linklater, none of the other SXSW films could overtake this. I don’t want to overhype it too much before the rest of the world gets to see it in June. I just still love this movie, the third day we spend with Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy), the couple from Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. If it’s not still number one at the end of the year, I can’t wait to see what movie I love more.