All my bags are packed, and I’m ready to go. SXSW has been around for so long that when I attend I inevitably run into people I first met a generation ago who are now bringing their kids.
The route used to be easy, with shortcuts and plentiful parking places. Now, the State Highway 71 merger with U.S. Route 183 grinds with gridlock, and many Sixth Street parking lots are overly expensive. Austin traffic exceeds Houston traffic in slow-crawl momentum.
The routine consists of trying to decide between over one hundred movies that cover a wide range of styles and subjects. Some big name tickets, films both studio and indie financed opening locally in the next few weeks to months, draw top talent and large crowds. The world premiere of “Us,” Jordan Peele’s follow up to “Get Out,” launches the whole affair Friday, March 8 at the Paramount Theatre
Other premieres include the Netflix produced “The Highway Men,” with Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson playing Texas Rangers tracking Bonnie and Clyde. Elisabeth Moss will also be there promoting her latest film, “Her Smell,” and Olivia Wilde will be there presenting her feature directorial debut, “Booksmart.”
The closing weekend several days later hopes to frighten audiences into St. Patrick’s Day weekend with world premieres of two upcoming horror films: “Pet Cemetery” (they better incorporate the Ramones title song from the original) and “The Curse of La Llorona.”
A slight digression into various venues…
The Paramount Theatre seats over 1200. And even though the line may begin for up to two hours previous to the feature, you’re practically guaranteed a slot — plus some pleasant conversation.
The Alamo Ritz, the Stateside Theatre, and the Atom Theater (at the Austin Convention Center) are all within walking distance of each other. The Zach Theatre and the Alamo Lamar are a short drive away.
The upside comes from discovering true gems among the multitude of titles.
The following is a list of some bona fide cool premieres, based sight-unseen on title or synopsis.
- “Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins” paints an emotional portrait of its subject: one of the toughest talking political reporters to pen a column.
- “The Wall of Mexico” is a narrative feature involving haves and have-nots, access to water and a wall.
- “Tread” documents a rampage with a modified bulldozer that tore apart a small Colorado town during the summer of 2004.
- “Mr. Jimmy” follows the career of Akio Sakurai from Tokamachi, Japan. Sakurai has spent decades perfecting a Jimmy Page note-for-note tribute show.
- “What We Do in the Shadows” cross-pollenates the movie with a new television show. The first episode will be screened followed by a Q&A with cast and crew.
- “Ernie & Joe” are a pair of San Antonio cops who are part of the force’s elite Mental Health Unit. This documentary follows their interaction with the community.
- “The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash” presents an intimate view of Cash’s career, complete with previously unseen archival footage. It’s been signed off on by the Cash estate.
- “Teen Spirit” marks the feature film debut of actor Max Minghella. The Cinderella-bent story stars Elle Fanning as a singing competition contestant.
- “The Peter Butter Falcon” offers an inspirational narrative that revolves around a young man with Down syndrome who runs away from home to join the wrestling profession. The cast is filled with small roles from recognizable actors.
- “Sword of Trust,” from director Lynn Shelton, makes sport of the acquisition of a Civil War-era sword and the subsequent efforts to sell to the highest bidder.
- The documentary “J.R. ‘Bob’ Dobbs and The Church of the SubGenius” says it all in the title. It’s hard to believe a religion came out of Fort Worth, Texas.
- “Sunset Over Mulholland Drive” chronicles unsung Hollywood denizens living at the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a home for retired actors and technicians.
- “Running With Beto” offers a documentary that takes the viewer behind the veil of Beto O’Rourke’s campaign to unseat Ted Cruz in last year’s Senate race.