SXSW: Monday? ai-yi-yi

Update on Dobie Theater parking: If you are going to a SXSW movie at Dobie, you can get your parking ticket validated for up to 5 hours. Which is enough for one movie, but probably not two if you get there early and there’s a long space between the two films. You’d probably have to go out and in again. Still, that’s not a big sacrifice to make for free parking.
I went to Dobie on Monday to see Kissing on the Mouth. I was pleased to see that the screening took place in the Egyptian theater, which is the largest Dobie theater and generally has the best seats. However, it is still a difficult theater if you are short. I had to sit up very straight the whole time and I still had someone’s head in my view in one corner of the screen. This is why I don’t see a lot of movies at Dobie, even though they show great films and the theaters are decorated in a very cool way.

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SXSW: lazy Sunday

So far, movies I would recommend that have another screening scheduled during SXSW:

  • Stagedoor—Now this is my idea of a good family film.
  • The Aggressives—Not at all a family film, but a very good documentary that might not get widespread distribution, so see it if you get the chance.
  • The collection of animated short films—More on that later in this entry. Get there early, it is very popular.

Best venue so far: Arbor Great Hills, believe it or not. Although it is a Regal cinema, they are not showing “The 2wenty” before the SXSW films. It is very pleasant to sit in a quiet theater with good house lights before a movie starts. (I wish the Arbor were like this year-round, damn it.) The seats are very comfy, too. It’s a good-sized theater and the out-of-towners are not likely to make the drive, so it’s easier to get good seats.

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SXSW: first Saturday

Saturday, 2:45 pm (home)
I saw Stagedoor this morning. Not to be confused with Stage Door, of course (although I did actually see that film again last weekend, coincidentally enough). Stagedoor is a documentary about the Stagedoor Manor summer camp, a theatrical program in the Catskills where all kinds of kids go to participate in productions. The documentary focused on five kids, but didn’t delve too deeply or focus too much on just these five kids. The movie spent a lot of time looking at the overall camp culture.

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SXSW: first Friday night

I’m writing things as I go along. These are just various impressions I got from going to the festival. Hopefully I’ll have time to write full reviews later for some of these movies.
Friday, 9:20 pm, Alamo South parking lot
I just saw The Chumscrubber. This was not what I thought it would be. I was worried it would involve people dealing with a decomposing corpse or something.
The summary I read was misleading because it listed all the name actors, who are older—Glenn Close, Ralph Fiennes, Allison Janney, etc. However, the main characters in this movie are all teenagers (I guess the teen actors aren’t as well known; I didn’t know them, but I am out of touch with them kids today … gads, what a terribly old-farty thing to say). [After checking IMDb on Saturday] One looked very Culkin-ish, and sure enough, Dean’s little brother was played by Rory Culkin. And I am very much out of touch, because Jamie Bell, the lead, also played the title role in Billy Elliot.

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pre-SXSW: Dennis Quaid at Jester

Friday, 4 pm: Waterloo Ice House, Sixth and Lamar.
As part of my class at UT, we had a special class today to make up for having next week off for Spring Break. The speakers were George Freeman, an agent for William Morris who represents lots of actors and directors whose names I recognized, and Dennis Quaid. I couldn’t resist, even though the class was at 2 pm on a Friday and I had lots to do at the office.
The class was held in an auditorium at Jester Center. Jester is a huge-ass dorm on the UT campus. When I lived in the basement there for one year, it was rumored that at the time, Jester was the biggest dorm in the US. It was also rumored that the building plans had been based on a prison. The lobby/public area does look rather grim (and it hasn’t changed in 12 years … make that 13 years, damn). The auditorium made the studio where we usually meet in CMB (the rusty building) look cozy.
Still, it was a pleasure to look down at the front of the room and see Dennis Quaid, and I will now be very shallow and tell you that I don’t know how old that man is, but he looks hot. (IMdb says he’s 50. Okay.) I watched him walk up to the stage in some rather ratty-looking jeans, noticed that he had all kinds of things crammed in the back pockets, wondered what else a man would stick in his back pocket besides his wallet, then realized that during all this wondering, I had been fixated on his ass for waaay too long. He turned around and I noticed that his front jeans pockets were also crammed with stuff, and then I told myself rather sharply to look over at George Freeman or the clock or something before I got improperly fixated on anything inappropriate.

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nine days, 200 movies

I’ve been trying to figure out how many films I actually can see in nine days. So far my SXSW film calendar has 28 films listed, although some will be impossible for me to attend (I do not think I will be able to see a movie at Alamo South at 10 pm and then drive to Alamo Downtown, and park, for a midnight movie on a weekend). I wish I could have taken the entire week off work so I could see more collections of shorts during the day, but I didn’t decide early enough that I would attend the film festival. I wish I had bought a pass to the film conference, but I’m not a filmmaker and so it didn’t seem to be worth the money for me. (If I can’t get into any of the films I like with my plain little film pass, I will be very sad.) I wish I had a chauffeur to shuttle me from theater to theater.
My boyfriend is going to SXSW Interactive, so we might not see very much of each other for the next week. He got a new laptop last night, just in time for the conference, and he has been trying to set everything up properly so he can take it with him. I haven’t decided if it’s worth it for me to bring my laptop with me. I know Alamo has free wireless, but do I actually need the laptop? Wouldn’t a nice little spiral notebook work just as well? Am I really going to post entries between movies?
The Austin bloggers are arranging for happy hours and dinners and things during the first days of SXSW Interactive. I don’t know anyone else who is going to the film festival. That’s not true. A coworker might buy a film pass and go to some movies with me (I haven’t heard from him lately so I’m not sure) and I think LB is going to the film conference and some of the movies too.
The movie theaters for SXSW are not clustered in one place; they are scattered around town. The Arbor is close to my house; Alamo South and Dobie are both a short drive from downtown (in opposite directions); the other theaters are downtown and you can walk from one to the other if you are athletic and have good shoes. In the daytime. I wouldn’t do it at night alone (well, Paramount to Alamo Downtown, but not ACC). The Paramount and Alamo Downtown don’t have their own parking, so you have to fight everyone else for street parking (which will be impossible during the music festival) or find a pay parking lot that isn’t too terribly pricey (whee). I don’t think Dobie is charging film festival attendees for parking but I can’t say for sure.
If I were going to the film conference, I might have a good chance of meeting other film people and talking (I do not network, sadly) and so forth, but just going to the film festival, there is no central place for attendees to cluster and hang out. But as I’ve said, I don’t think the film conference is worthwhile for me; I would get more out of the interactive conference. The only panel that caught my interest was the one on film blogs (and why are there no women on this panel, when most film blogs I read are written by women?), because I would like to hear what other people have to say about them.
So I am a little envious of my boyfriend because he will have more of a social experience than I will. Okay, neither of us is very social, and I know that I like the idea better than the actuality of these events. We went to an Interactive-related party last year and I hid in a corner on the porch and talked only to people I know. I’m such a wimp.
I realize that what I really want is some good advice about attending the film festival. The only film festival I have ever attended has been Austin Film Festival, which was smaller and I had a free all-access pass (I used to do some work for them) and I didn’t care about seeing a lot of movies back then.
This is my first time attending SXSW, unless you count a single SXSW-related concert I attended back in 1992 (I should tell that story sometime), but that’s hardly the same thing. I know Austin, I know most of these theaters very well (Alamo South is the only one I haven’t been to, but that’s because it opened last week), but I don’t know this film festival at all.
David Nunez wrote some very good guidelines about attending SXSW Interactive. Kramer has some good advice for SXSW attendees who aren’t from Austin (I disagree about Guero’s, though, and would instead suggest y’all take a little drive to Hoover’s for yummy barbecue and home cooking). But I have not found anything helpful anywhere on the Web about attending the film festival. Which venues tend to fill up? If I have a film pass instead of a badge, am I screwed? Do I have to pay to park at Dobie? What is the screen like at ACC? If I see one movie at Alamo Downtown, can I stay in the theater for the next one, or do I have to get out and get in a line again? Is it okay if I keep a camera in my purse (I’m not going to use it in the theater)?
Is there anyone reading who can help me (and any other SXSW film newbies) here? Please post your advice in the comments section. And let me know if you’re going to be in Austin next week and want to say hi. If you see a lil round short-haired chick frowning at a laptop that is adorned with a Cookie Monster sticker, that would be me. (The sticker is on the laptop, not on me.) I only wish I could bring Cookie Monster stickers for everybody.

Kinsey (2004)

Kinsey: 2004, dir. Bill Condon. Seen at Paramount (Feb. 20).
Kinsey is not a movie about sex. Kinsey is a movie about nerds.
My boyfriend pointed this out after we saw the movie. He noted how refreshing it was to see a movie in which the main character, with whom we are sympathizing and identifying, is a nerd. And a geek. He gets more excited about the lifespan of the gall wasp than anything else.
I have to say I like the nerdy parts of this movie, and of the character, much better than the sex parts. And no, I am not a prude.

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movies this week: screw that, I’m going

One line stood out in the weekly email newsletter from Alamo Drafthouse this week:
“And there you’d been thinking that SXSW was the only big film event you had to look forward to this month. Ha! If you do it right, you’ll be exhausted before South By Southwest even starts.”
Yes, I will.
March is starting to look downright insane. I bought my SXSW film festival pass on Tuesday night. Every year, the department where I work gets terribly busy right around SXSW time, and so I decide I really can’t make the time to go. I’ve seen coworkers buy festival passes that they aren’t able to use. I didn’t want to deal with the frustration and I always said, “Maybe next year.”
This year, I said, “Screw that. I’m going.”
I am taking some time off work in the middle of a hectic time at work, which is pretty dumb, but I don’t care. You cannot plan your life around product release schedules, mainly because they always seem to shift so that the vacation you’ve been planning for months suddenly occurs in the middle of crucial beta testing.
I would take the whole week off work if I could, because I want to see manymany movies and write about them and it would be nice if I could get to the gym at least once during a week when I will spend a lot of time with my butt parked in theater seats … but even working half-days will probably create some deadline difficulties.
And I should work this weekend to make up for the time lost, but I want to see Bride and Prejudice and I’m going to a wedding and did I mention I am auditing a class at UT? It’s a film class so I have to make time for screenings, too. I can’t go to The Muppet Movie sing-along on Sunday night because I need to watch a film for the class.
And there are other various personal projects that I decided to undertake and can’t back away from right now.
So I think that Alamo Drafthouse is being downright mean, opening their new Alamo South theater (on S. Lamar) this weekend and showing all kinds of interesting movies next week before the SXSW film festival starts. I can’t see The Iron Giant because I have a class. If I see Rashomon I will miss the only opportunity all week to work out. (Fortunately, the Rashomon is a little too pricey for me.)
Under the circumstances, perhaps you understand why I cannot even deal with a movie titled Be Cool. And I don’t need The Pacifier, either. (What is this, Dumb Titles in New Releases Week? They’re all two words long and laaaaame.)

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Last Days of the San Jose (2005)

Last Days of the San Jose: 2005, dir. Liz Lambert. Seen at Alamo Downtown (Jan. 12).
Last Days of the San Jose premiered at Alamo Downtown as part of the Texas Documentary Tour. It is a documentary about the San Jose Motel, a notoriously seedy joint on S. Congress Ave. in Austin, which Liz Lambert bought with the idea of tearing it down to build a cool boutique hotel. But it took her two years to get a bank to loan her the money, and in the meantime she decided to manage the old motel in order to make ends meet. She used a digital video camera to document many of the colorful characters and odd experiences she encountered during that time, which were cut into this documentary.
If you have lived in Austin for many years, Last Days of the San Jose is a kind of loopy Valentine to the days when S. Congress was more disreputable, before anyone ever thought about using the abominably pretentious term “SoCo” to describe the area.

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