South by Southwest was the first film festival to which I ever traveled; it was 2010 when they premiered Kick-Ass and showed a sneak of Predators. I fell in love with the city of Austin so much that I go back twice a year (also for Fantastic Fest), and fell for festivals such that I explore them all over the country, nay, the world now. You've read - and if you haven't, why not? - my reports on the TCAs and Sundance, which are both events that I love, but each of those are only one thing. Either all TV, or all movies. Here at SXSW I get movies, technology, and music shows I wouldn't even have time for if I wanted to!
SXSW began as a music festival, and added a film and interactive component over the years. The film festival actually runs longer than the music by several days now, so take that, rock stars. Unlike Sundance or Toronto, where major studios cull the schedule of independent films to purchase the distribution rights, SXSW isn't so much a buying festival. There are some sales for sure, but it's more of an opportunity for studios to premiere films and for fans to be exposed to cool, edgy material.
Between the film slate and the interactive conference's exhibition of new technology and apps, there were plenty of geekily cool moments. I was there watching movies, interviewing celebrities and checking out some of the tech, so here are the top 10 things I saw at SXSW.
10. SXSW Shuts Down Marvel and Comixology
Marvel Comics had a great idea to drum up interest in their new Marvel App and content on Comixology. They would give away 700 classic first issues to entrants attending the SXSW Interactive Conference. Most of us could never afford a Captain America or Fantastic Four #1 in a good old fashioned plastic bag with a cardboard back, and let's face it, if we could, we would never expose those pages to the elements or our own grubby little fingers. So if we actually want to read the first issue, our only options are a trade paperback reprint, or this online edition. The online version is likely more faithful to the original colors, or perhaps enhanced for digital screens.
It doesn't matter, though, because it seems Marvel vastly underestimated the numbers at SXSW Interactive, and contest entries shut down Comixology. They suspended the contest as a result. So are you happy now, Marvel fans? No comics for anybody! :(
9. Joseph Gordon-Levitt Hasn't Heard the Nolan/Justice League News
Or at least that's what he says when asked about his reaction to his Inception/Dark Knight Rises director being hired to handle DC's answer to The Avengers. I actually had a TV interview with Gordon-Levitt for his directorial debut, Don Jon, which will run on Crave Online, but I made sure to ask him about the Nolan news.
Now, I've gotten to interview JGL several times over the years, all the way back to his indie film Manic. Around the time of (500) Days of Summer he was cast in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra so indie movie junkets became a chance to ask him about his upcoming big studio films. He was always evasive and by the time he landed in Inception, he wouldn't say anything about his big movies. I politely waited until the end of the Don Jon interview, and I certainly had plenty of questions about his current film. But news is news, and Warner Brothers/DC hiring Nolan is news. I asked him if he was excited to hear Nolan was going to be involved; Gordon-Levitt said he hadn't heard that, which could have been a quick way to shift the focus back to his current movie. But he's a busy guy, so he probably hasn't been online reading the news. Right?
8. Team Coco on the Ground
Conan O'Brien's online army were in full force at the Interactive portion of SXSW. I hooked up with them in the Austin Convention Center where they were shooting Vine videos on a cell phone of convention attendees. While every app developer was sending booth babes around Austin giving out free samples of their latest service, Coco couldn't take any of this seriously.
The Coco crew had two ideas for convention goers. I chose to record a video complaining about apps: why does every app need to update every two days? I just want the current version to keep working! The other idea was to pitch Conan your idea for an app, while chewing on a mouthful of crackers. I wasn't opposed to the crackers; I just couldn't think of an app to pitch. So far I have not seen any of the Vines on their Twitter feed or website, which is why I've chosen a totally unrelated Team Coco video to accompany this text. Yeah, the interactive conference ended Tuesday, Coco...so get on that.
7. Shailene Woodley reading Manga
By now everyone knows Shailene Woodley because she's playing Mary Jane in the sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man. You may have also heard her movie The Spectacular Now was a big hit at Sundance, and A24 will be releasing the film this summer. I finally got to see Spec Now (as the cool kids are abbreviating it) at SXSW and it only adds to Woodley's cred.
Woodley plays Aimee Finecky, a shy independent girl who falls for bad boy Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), and one of her character traits is she's a manga fan. Now this may raise some red flags: we all hate when movie stars play their version of "nerds" with glasses and pony tails and some token obsession. Woodley doesn't wear glasses, although she does have a pony tail in a few scenes, and that only makes her cuter. Her character's manga collection isn't really played up that much.
There could be a whole movie about a cute girl collecting manga, and there should be - get on that, Hollywood! - but least when Aimee shows off her collection she gets it right. She teaches Sutter (Miles Teller) to read them right to left, so Woodley and the filmmakers at least know that much about manga themselves (or did the research, anyway). When Spec Now comes out on DVD, somebody should make a gif of Woodley flipping through the books.
6. Mature for Her Age
Grow Up, Tony Phillips is Austin filmmaker and child prodigy Emily Hagins' fourth film. She was shooting Pathogen when she was 12, but now that she's 20 it's not cute anymore. She's just a professional veteran director. Okay, it is still cute, but the point is she's gotten rather good at filmmaking, so it's not just a gimmick that she's a young director.
Tony Phillips is about a high schooler who still dresses up for Halloween and goes trick or treating. His choice of robot costume should make all of our inner retro-fiends happy: a boxy '50s style machine. The theme of keeping our childhood traditions alive is awesome. I mean, why shouldn't we keep trick or treating? It's a lot more creative and social than just going to a costume party and getting drunk. Tony's making more effort than most of the kids wearing store-bought costumes, so he's earned it!