9 films that I am excited to see at SXSW 2019
Every March for the past ten years, I have traveled to Austin, Texas to attend SXSW. Out of all the festivals and convention that I attend each year, the SXSW programming team continues to up the ante by adding in new sections. When I first started coming to SXSW, the only programs that I remember being in place were Music, Interactive, and Film. But over the past few years, the festival programmers have added in Education, Gaming, Comedy, and Television. While all these sections are rather new, they are quickly finding their audience and place within the world that is SXSW.
However, I go to SXSW to cover Film exclusively. The SXSW Film Festival, which has been run by Janet Pierson ever since I started attending 10 years ago. Janet always does such an amazing job picking films because I feel she really knows the SXSW audience and what they like. While I wouldn’t say that all the films that play at SXSW are amazing, I do feel like they take a lot of chances and program films that dare to be different. With that being said, what has really put the SXSW Film Festival on the map has been the plethora of studio films that have premiered at SXSW over the past decade. Films like A Quiet Place, 21 Jump Street, Bridesmaids, Neighbors, Spy, and Evil Dead all premiered at SXSW and went on to be moderate to massive hits.
I love that within its fairly large line-up of over 200 films there is this mix of big studio fare with smaller Indies that take chances. While I like coming to SXSW to see the bigger films, I like to catch several smaller titles that end up being some of my favorite films from the festival. Below are my top nine picks for this year’s festival
Yes, God, Yes
I am always a fan of films that analyze or mock the ridiculousness of religion. Yes, God, Yes stars Natalia Dyer and is about a Catholic girl named Alice who struggles with guilt after masturbating online in a chat room. This guilt ultimately leads her to attend a spiritual retreat which only makes matters worse.
Ok, so I am sort of cheating by putting this movie on my list but the truth is, I think if you have a chance to see this movie that you need to make it a priority whenever you can. Little Monsters is a hilarious and ballsy zombie comedy that is centered on a kindergarten teacher who during a field trip to a local farm must protect her students from the zombie apocalypse.
If you are looking for a horror comedy that takes chances and is an absolute blast from start to finish, look no further because Little Monsters is the answer. Lupita Nyong’o and Josh Gad play characters that are completely outside their wheelhouse and absolutely kill it. It also features two of the best musical sequences featuring a Taylor Swift song as well as a Neil Diamond song.
I have recently said that the horror comedy has quickly become one of my favorite sub-genres in cinema. I enjoy a good scary movie and love to laugh so this is a winning combination for me. Over the years while at SXSW, I discovered quite a few horror comedies that I’ve fallen in love with. Some recent titles include Tragedy Girls, The Final Girls, and Stage Fright. This year, I am hoping that Snatchers is the horror comedy that I fall in love with.
Snatchers follows a cool high schooler named Sara whose boyfriend pushes her to have sex in order for them to stay together. The next morning she wakes up 9 months pregnant. I don’t know what happens next but I am excited to see Snatchers and find out.
In this documentary, director Elizabeth Sankey takes a look through the history of romantic comedies with the help of several critics and actors. As someone who absolutely adores the romantic comedy genre, I find myself intrigued by the premise but am also worried that the film may make a strong argument that will impact my love of the beloved genre.
The Art of Self Defense
When I interviewed Alessandro Nivola for Disobedience last year, he told me all about his role in The Art of Self Defense and how much he couldn’t wait for the world to see this film. As someone who really enjoyed Faults, which written and directed Riley Sterns as well, I found myself immediately interested in the film. The film is a dark comedy about a man played by Jesse Eisenberg who gets attacked randomly on the street and decides its best if he learns karate in order to protect himself. It is at the dojo where he meets his Sensei and hilarity and surprises ensue.
Stuber is an action comedy starring Kumail Nanjiani as an Uber driver whose ends up driving around a cop played by Dave Bautista. Do I need I say more? I didn’t think so. Stuber is directed by Michael Dowse, whose previous film, What If? was a hilarious and heartfelt romantic comedy starring Zoe Kazan and Daniel Radcliffe. I am so excited for Stuber and look forward to seeing what this wacky trio brings to the table.
Sword of Trust
I have been a fan of Lynn Shelton work for a while now and Sword of Trust sounds like another great entry in her already impressive filmography. Shelton has assembled a strong cast that includes Marc Maron, Jillian Bell, and Michaela Watkins. The film itself sounds weird which very much fits the SXSW crowd. It is about two family members who try to collect their grandfather’s inherence only to discover he left them nothing but a sword that has ties to the civil war.
I’m not going to try to sugarcoat it, I love me some Olivia Wilde. For the past decade, Wilde has starred in so many different films and has taken on so many unique roles that she has simply made her own. Wilde kicked ass in Tron: Legacy, made me laugh until my sides hurt in Butter, and delivering an emotionally raw and powerful performance in A Vigilante. Wilde’s range as an actress has been horribly overlooked for years but with each new project she takes on, she only continues to be better and better.
Booksmart is Wilde’s directorial debut and it is a film that has been on my radar since I first heard about it several months ago. The film is a comedy about high school friendships told (and written) from a female perspective. I have been a fan of Kaitlyn Dever since Short Term 12 and fell in love with Beanie Feldstein when I saw her in Lady Bird, two years ago. I am predicting that Booksmart is going to be the breakout hit of SXSW and if that happens, will be very excited because Olivia Wilde will finally get the recognition that she has not only earned but deserves.
In 2017, Jordan Peele’s Get Out premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and went on to become a cultural phenomenon. When I first heard that US was being released in March of 2019, I figured it was a sure bet that US would be a surprise screening at Sundance. Well, I was wrong. Instead, Universal, just a few days prior to Sundance, announced that US would be the opening night film at the SXSW Film Festival. This was a really smart decision since horror films and SXSW are like peanut butter and jelly. Horror and SXSW are a winning formula especially for studio films that have opened the festival in the past.
There are many reasons to be excited for US but for me, the main reason is that I have no idea what the hell the film is even about. I have said this hundreds of times before but I love being surprised when I go to the movies. I hate when trailers and tv spots spoil the plot or ruin key scenes in a film. The marketing for US has been superb because you have no idea what’s going on yet you are intrigued and know that you are going to be scared shitless. I love that I received a pair of gold scissors in the mail yet no nothing about what they have to do with the actual film. It’s a nice and creepy touch that only makes me more excited to see the film.