Michael Bergeron
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SXSW Film 2024 - Wet Edition

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A steady rainy mist that lasted from Friday through Sunday during opening weekend of the SXSW Film Festival did little to dampen the spirits of those attending this year. If anything, it strengthened the resolve to brave the elements and long lines to catch world premieres of instant renown.

My hipster suede shoes were soaked by wet murk by Saturday afternoon. It was synchronicity in motion that random freebies being handed out on street corners included socks. At one point Saturday night I donned a spare pair of hiking shoes that I keep in my car trunk and never wear. Had I ever worn them I would know they were a half-size too small, although they were definitely waterproof.

Sunday’s strategy saw a return to the still damp suede shoes with a sock change every four hours. The sun eventually came out in full force on Monday just after noon. At that time I was scheduled to participate in a paintball war with other journalists and Sharlto Copley, a promotion for the film Free Fire, but the ground was soaking with mud and even with the protective clothing there was no respite for the shoes. So I wussed out and returned to Hicksville.

The shoes were the least of my cares. SXSW is all about new contacts and discoveries, seeing forgotten friends, breakfast parties and complimentary rubbing of the flesh. Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had occurred in a SXSW film premiere line. This year one exchange of words resulted in a participant culling a video on his smartphone that depicted bees learning. Everyone around pulled in to watch. A fake bee on a stick shows a real bee how to put a ball into a hole and get a sugar reward. Then the bee is putting the ball in the hole, and then the alpha bee is teaching another bee the same thing. And we haven’t even gotten to the real movies yet.

World Premiere Capsules:

  • Like Me revolves around an outcast young femme that uses social media to document an ever-increasing crime spree. At first Kiya (Addison Timlin) video captures a convenience store robbery, but soon resorts to kidnapping and putting her captive in bizarre sexual tableaus. This could well be an extended episode of Black Mirror.
  • Song to Song evokes Austin in the multiple uses of locations set in the capital city, some of which are long gone. The film was shot in 2024, but Terrence Malick is known for taking years to edit a film as well as an idiosyncratic style that consists of voice-over narration of the dialogue. There’s a sense that the characters that populate this universe have no souls, and at the same time the filmmaking excels in production value.
  • Alien: Covenant was teased by Sir Ridley Scott, who previewed about twenty-minutes of footage from the May release. Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride and Michael Fassbinder also participated in the stage presentation. Spoilers included the suggestion that the space craft the crew has landed on the planet gets destroyed during an alien infiltration, and the hint that the new cast meets up with characters from Prometheus.
  • Baby Driver has Edgar Wright in Walter Hill mode. A tightly constructed car heist film with an accelerated cast that delivers its narrative beats in time to the soon-to-be-talked-about soundtrack. Opens 11 August.
  • Lucky stars Harry Dean Stanton as a drinking and smoking 90-year-old in a California desert town populated by other eccentric types. Co-starring David Lynch, Tom Skerritt, James Darren and Beth Grant. Stanton anchors the film with his solid performance.
  • Atomic Blonde features Charlize Theron as a double agent on a mission in Berlin during the fall of the wall (1989). A high body count follows. At the screening Q&A, Theron talked about the extensive training she did for the role, admitting she “cracked two rear teeth” while clenching her jaws during certain exercises. Open late July.
  • Becoming Bond centers on the only actor to play Bond in a motion picture once – George Lazenby. More than one Bond aficionado considers On Her Majesty’s Secret Service to be at the top of the two-dozen Bond films extant. Lazenby worked as a car salesman and his good looks and strong personality got him the audition that sealed the deal. In addition to select clips from the Bond film, BB recreates moments from Lazenby’s life with help from co-stars like Dana Carvey and Jane Seymour.
  • Bill Nye: Science Guy documents Nye debating with people who believe the Earth is 6,000 years old and deny climate change. Nice balance of science and Nye’s personal life.
  • La Barracuda mixes the Austin music scene with the tale of a bastard child of a popular and now deceased folksinger. Sophie Reid plays Sinaloa, the haunted lead who hitchhikes into Austin straight from Brighton ready to meet her half-sister and extended family. Tension ensues when Sinaloa reveals nasty anger management issues. Butch Hancock, The Mastersons and Colin Gilmore appear in supporting roles during concert sequences.