The celluloid shindig continued on an early note, at least for a Sunday morning, by checking out one of three “shorts” programs in this year’s SXSW lineup. Personally, I dig the shorts as much as anything and always make it a point to see all the programs. Kind of the variety store approach to film viewing. (For you South County types, the Courthouse Center for the Arts in West Kingston runs a monthly indie film shorts program featuring films from the previous summer’s Rhode Island Film Festival. Worth your while.) “Reel Shorts 3” was the title and it featured eight films all of which were highly worthy of anyone’s attention (i.e., these suckers were all read good!). Noteworthy was the hilarious Thick as Thieves about muggings that lead to friendship, Thompson about a couple of outcast high school types and their unique relationship, and Wings about a couple of “angels” trying to earn promotions until things literally backfire. Honorable mention goes to The Golden Pose which while pretty terrific, turned me onto the music if Oregonian Richard Swift whose music provided the backdrop and whose latest recording (As Onasis I and II, Secretly Canadian Records) I scooted over to Waterloo Records later in the afternoon and grabbed. It’s real, real cool.
Next up was doc pic 45365 which focused on the doings in the middle American ‘burg Sidney, Ohio. (It’s the zip code.) I’ve seem stories like this and I have to say not a whole lot of new ground was broken. A little Friday nights lights, etc., while I liked it there just seemed to be something missing. Maybe it was the fact the filmmakers introduce us to the everyday lives of people in Sidney, but bring nothing to any sort of conclusion. Scale of 1 - 5, I’d put this one at a 3.
Next up was supposed to be Adventureland, but there was such a mob scene waiting to see this one that there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d get in. On a side note, it supposedly opens in theaters in about a month, so it can wait. The fallback was a complete 180, a doc called Burma VJ which chronicled the attempts by underground video journalists in Burma to risk their lives at getting news and images form this oppressed country out to the rest of the world. Put simply, there’s not a lot of smiling and happy faces in Burma (and note much hope, either). Highly depressing and eye opening at the same time, this one is must viewing and had involvement by HBO, so maybe they’ll show it in the not too distant future.
Oh yeah, what about today’s chow. Well, my son since he’s been living here (2006) has been raving about this taco joint on Riverside called El Taquito. Gave it a shot after the morning run along the trails of Ladybird Lake and have to say the Al Pastor was a definite keeper and as good as any breakfast taco I’ve had here in taco-town. They also had a pretty heavenly thing called a Gringa where they line a corn tortilla with melted cheese on the grill and stuff it with whatever you want. I choose frijoles and it was tasty as heck. Dinner found as a favorite staple, Shoal Creek Saloon for the Sunday chicken-fried steak special with mashed taters and green beans. Shoal Creek does chicken fried as good as anyone.
I dig pulp, celluloid, and music. Cool posters out the ying-yang hanging everywhere, postcards plugging music and films, lo and high budget periodicals laying on record stores floors for the taking, what better place to overstimulate the senses in all those areas than the annual South-by-Southwest, a.k.a. SXSW, film-music confab in Austin, TX. Extra-sensory, to say the least. The Boudin Barndance is here as of yesterday (Friday the 13th) and the senses are already bubbling over. Austin greeted with spitting rain and temps barely in the 40s on Friday. Today (Saturday), the rain ceased but the overcast skies had temps in the low 50s. Heck, still better than the Northeast. Anyway, film is up first and with $70 film pass in hand (need to see 7 films to break even!) caught two showings on Friday night. Alamo Drafthouse South was the venue of choice and it is arguably one of the greatest joints to watch flicks in the land. First up was a music videos spotlight and while it had its moments, the overall feeling was that music videos are in their dying days. Victim of youtube and DIY? Out of one showing and onto the line for the next film which was an indie production called The Snake. The big draw for this flick was the appearance of Patton Oswalt who is helping push the film. I’ll give it a 3 on a 1-5 scale. About a guy who snakes chicks and usually seems to get bit by his own medicine in the end. While it had plenty of laughs, I’m thinking this one caters to the 20-something crowd.
Saturday brought a mid-morning visit to Waterloo Records (www.waterloorecords.com), Austin’s premier and one of the nation's premier independent record stores. You walk in and vinyl stares you in the face. Who woulda thunk it? By the way, Record Record Store Day coming up April 18 (www.recordstoreday.com). Have to say it was tough resisting vinyl purchases as they had loads of good shit (Andre Williams’ Detroit Soul, Mr. Luckee soul party comps), but I’ve got 8 days to let it eat away at me to the point of purchase. Did pick up the latest Numero Group (www.numerogroup.com) release (Local Customs: Downwater Revival) which chronicles Felton Williams’ stable of goods recorded in his Escorse, MI basement. Plenty raw and plenty good. Go get it!
Out of Waterloo and over to Alamo South for the first flick of the day. Speaking of pulp, it was a doc called Died Young Stayed Pretty (www.diedyoungstayedpretty.com) all about poster artists. Inspired by gigposters.com, it was a really cool look at the scene focusing on about 15 particular artists, including Providence’s own Brian Chippendale who gets major coverage in the film. A freewheeling and opinionated lot of talents. If you dig poster art, you’ll fawn over this. Scale of 1-5. I give this one 5.
Out of one flick and right into the next, a South Korean film called Day Drinking. You ever had one of those afternoons where a few drinks with friends has you making the plans of a lifetime (roadtrips! mutiny! et, al)? It sets the stage for this story, however, of the four guys making all them big plans, only one follows through (the other three are too passed out to even get up the next day to set the journey in motion). Suffice to say, this poor bastard makes one wrong turn after the other with the almighty booze (i.e, soju!) the instigator. The fact that it’s the dead of winter in South Korea only adds to the travails. I could literally feel this guy’s pain as he hitchhikes a mountain highway only in shirt & underpants (Long story - see the movie) after another day-drinking encounter imbibes him. Scale of 1-5. I give this one a 4.
Film session #3 of the day was Intangible Asset Number 82. It centered around an Australian jazz drummer named Simon Barker and his search for a Korean shaman Kim Seok-Chul. In all, it was a seven year journey for Barker who finds this iconoclastic figure and shares rhythms with him only three days before the ancient one dies. In the process, Barker, thanks to the teachings his receives from his Korean comrades, is transformed from a typical uptight and centrally focused musician into a relaxed and more globally focused one.
24 hours and five movie sessions. More to come....