The 10 Nerdiest Things At SXSW 2013

Monday, March 18, 2013 at 6:00 am

5. Download This!

Remember Napster? If not, or if The Social Network made you curious, this documentary, directed by Bill and Ted's Alex Winter, will remind you. Napster was the first significant music sharing service, and it was effectively shut down by the music industry and their copyright lawsuits. Just seeing Napster screens at work will make you nostalgic, and this fair portrait of its creators Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning shows they weren't trying to steal from anyone. They just wanted to create a legal way to share authorized music, and they sort of got screwed when the industry just took their concept and did it their own way with iTunes.

You may not know this, but Winter has become quite an accomplished director since Bill and Ted. You should definitely check out his awesome movie Freaked (Mr. T as a bearded lady! Bobcat Goldthwait as a guy with a sock-puppet head!), and on television he's worked on Ben 10 and Level Up. There's no air guitar in Downloaded, but if Bill and Ted had logged on in 2000 they would have freaked out over all the music available for free. Or maybe Wyld Stallyns would have sued Napster like Metallica. Winter crafts a tale like David Fincher's Facebook tale in documentary form, only Napster doesn't have a happy ending for its creators. Spoiler.

4. A Torrent Affair

If you thought Napster was a hot topic on the Internet, get a load of this documentary about the Swedish file sharing service The Pirate Bay. TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard follows the creators of TPB during their trial when Hollywood studios sued them for facilitating bit-torrent downloads of copyrighted motion pictures. This is an even grayer area than Napster. The founders argue that they're fighting for a free internet, but dude, did they have to go and call it The Pirate Bay?

The filmmakers' access to their company, technology and private lives is unprecedented. We get deep inside the Pirate Bay headquarters and the programmers' private lives. It may not be the most flattering portrait of hackers, although I think the filmmakers were sympathetic to the ideals of a free Internet. The TPB guys just come across as immature. They have lofty ideals but seem dismissive of little things like copyright and artistic ownership. That's for the courts to decide, and they did, but we get to explore how it got this far and draw our own conclusions.

3. Milius the Barbarian

John Milius directed such films as Conan the Barbarian and Red Dawn (1984) and wrote Apocalypse Now, Dirty Harry and the story to Spielberg's 1941; he's also rumored to be the basis for John Goodman's Walter in The Big Lebowski. At SXSW, he got his own movie. The documentary Milius features all the crazy stories of Milius behind the scenes, as told by his super famous friends: Spielberg, Eastwood, Scorsese, Coppola, Schwarzenegger... a bigger cast than any Milius movie.

As a behind-the-scenes story of some of the most important films, Milius is pure cinephile nerdgasm. I mean, just hearing the above collection of filmmakers tell stories, it doesn't really matter who they're talking about. Milius himself is represented through an old interview (he's had a stroke so can't speak today.) Basically, stories of Milius are more entertaining than the movies themselves. Milius pulled guns on movie stars, made outrageous threats or outlandish casting suggestions, wore a stinky blazer... if it weren't all for real, it might sound even less believable than the John Goodman version.

2. 1d20

Like the manga issue in The Spectacular Now, you might worry if Hollywood were making a movie about dice based roll playing games. Luckily, Zero Charisma is not a Hollywood movie. It's an indie movie from Austin filmmakers Andrew Matthews and Katie Graham, and they not only know their RPGs, but have a cinematic way to show everyone else how cool they are.

Scott (Sam Eidson) is a game master who rules his games with an iron fists, but his descriptions of the adventure to his players are elegant, and the movie captures the drama of guys sitting around a table rolling a 20 sided die. Underneath the game is a good character drama about what happens when the game changes and a game master can't hold it together. Scott reluctantly allows newcomer Miles (Garrett Graham) into his game and Miles appeals to the players' frustration with Scott. So Miles is the bad guy, obviously. You've got to respect the game master!

1. Swallow our Souls

Bruce Campbell himself was in the house for the premiere of Fede Alvarez's re-imagining of Sam Raimi's original cabin in the woods film. Though there is no Ash in the new Evil Dead, Campbell produced this remake/reboot/rewhatever with Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert.

The new Evil Dead did not disappoint horror fans, who were cheering from the pre-title sequence through the infamous tree scene to the all the new horrors. Campbell joined the cast and filmmakers on stage after the film as all of Austin, or at least 1200 of them, hailed to the king. However, he called reports on an Evil Dead 4 "baloney" even though Raimi has said during his Oz the Great and Powerful press rounds that he's writing a fourth Ash movie. Meanwhile, they're already talking about an Evil Dead 2, so there's good news for deadite fans everywhere.

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