Well, ladies and gentleman, SXSW 2015 is almost upon us. It is officially one day away from the start of this year’s festival and while many flock to Austin for the Interactive and Music, I as always go for the Film section of the festival. Over the past few years, SXSW has been home to a lot of major movie premieres and this year is no different.
To be honest, I found the lineup this year to be rather disappointing. Even with all the big titles and big names that will be attending, I did have a very hard time making a schedule. Even with 200 plus films showing at this year’s festival, there sadly weren’t many films that stood out this year, at least in my opinion. Needless to say, I read through the film guide several times and compiled a list of about 30 films that I would try to catch while at SXSW.
Below is my list of the 10 films that I would deem as “must-see” this year as well as a few others recommendations that I will try to catch as well during the festival.
10. Manson Family Vacation – The title and premise sold me. It sounds weird and interesting at the same time. I think this is a film that will go either way with audiences, I think some will find this film to be an instant classic while others will scratch their heads and ask themselves “why was that even made?” It has potential and is unique enough to get me into the theater and for lack of a better expression I am intrigued by it.
9. Turbo Kid – I heard nothing but positive things about this film at Sundance and as much as I wanted to see it there, I never got around to it. This is a horror/sci-fi flick, which can be usually be hit or miss at SXSW, but since this originally premiered at Sundance and made it to SXSW, I have more hope for it. The premise of Turbo Kid not only sounds unique but much different than most post apocalyptic films that have been coming out over the past years. Also, the movie has a character named Skeletron, how can it not kick ass?
8. The Breakfast Club – I grew up on John Hughes and love this film as most film lovers do. While this shouldn’t technically count, I am putting it here since it’s a remastered version and I never saw it on the big screen. Needless to say, it will be great to see it on the big screen at the Paramount and with a post screening Q&A that includes Judd Nelson, Molly Ringwald how can I not be excited?
7. Quitters – Every year at SXSW, I pick something totally random and recommend it. This year, I am picking Quitters. There is just something about the idea and setting that intrigues me and I think seeing something made by a first time feature length filmmaker is a must for everyone when attending a film festival. You have to take risks at festivals because that is usually where you find those hidden gems. I don’t know if this is going to be the sleeper hit but I will take a chance and check it out.
6. Get Hard – A few years ago, I created GangstaManMenzel and now, just three years later, Will Ferrell is bringing him to life on the big screen. I am kidding of course, but seriously I am really curious about this one. I am not really a huge fan of Ferrell as of late but I have become a pretty big fan of Kevin Hart over the past two years. What I am really curious about is to see how this premise works in a feature length film. It seems like a SNL skit stretched into a feature length film but hey, at least the trailers were pretty amusing.
5. Spy – This is kind of hush hush but I personally know that Spy is a ton of fun. It is probably the funniest Melissa McCarthy has been since The Heat and the odd cast that includes Jude Law, Rose Bryne, and Jason Statham, somehow works to produce lots of laughs and action. If you get a chance to see this at SXSW, I would definitely catch it, as I strongly believe this will be a huge hit when it opens in theaters this summer. Also, the post screening Q&A is almost guaranteed to be a lot of fun especially with a SXSW audience that eat up studio comedies like this one.
4. Ex Machina – The trailer for Ex-Machina really sold me. It looks so bizarre yet extremely interesting at the same time. I won’t even lie, I still don’t fully comprehend what the film is about but I like going into things knowing as little as possible about them. Alex Garland, who wrote and directed the film, has shown a lot of promise as a writer so I am curious to see what he can do in the directors chair. The casting also seems pretty solid with both Domhnall Gleeson and Oscar Isaac as the two leads in this film. If nothing else, I am sure the film will be at least entertaining and early reviews seem strong thus far.
3, Hello, My Name is Doris – I still love Stella and haven’t forgiven Comedy Central for only giving Michael, Michael, and David one season of their sketch comedy show with the same name. Regardless of that short-lived series, I adore most of Showalter’s work whether it be writing or directing. Wet Hot American Summer is freaking hilarious and I was simply ecstatic when I learned about the Netflix series coming this summer. I also love his underrated indie gem, The Baxter that didn’t get seen by many but was a great comedic love story. Showalter is quite a talent because he mixes comedy and drama while writing great characters. Doris features Sally Field, who let’s be honest, is usually good in everything she does and the supporting cast which includes Natasha Lyonne, Wendi McLendon-Covey, and Max Greenfield are all pretty talented as well. I think this one might not be a huge hit but should be one of the more talked about this year’s SXSW.
2. Fresno – Jamie Babbit teams up with Natasha Lyonne and Clea DuVall once again in her new film, Fresno. I was originally introduced to Babbit, Lyonne, and DuVall back in 1999 when I saw But I’m A Cheerleader for the first time. Since it’s original release, Cheerleader has become a cult classic. I remember seeing it in the theater for the first time and being impressed with how weird and ballsy it was. I never saw a film prior to this that tackled the whole idea of sending gays and lesbians away to make them straight. The subject matter was obviously ripe for comedy and is still to this day one of my favorite comedy films of the 90s. While Fresno’s plot description is incredibly vague, I am curious since the casting choices seem solid. I am hoping this one becomes a cult classic just like Cheerleader did.
1. The Final Girls – I would never have expected to be so excited about a horror comedy but truth be told, SXSW usually does horror comedy genre right. The Cabin in the Woods premiered at SXSW back in 2012 and took everyone by surprise. The Final Girls premise blends comedy and horror but also serves as a throwback to 80s horror. The film also has a pretty impressive female cast that includes Malin Akerman, Nina Dobrev, and Alia Shawkat. I am not expecting a masterpiece with this one but rather just something incredibly entertaining. Director Todd Strauss-Schulson who previously directed, A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas hasn’t done a whole lot but this film could be the one that will really jump start his career.
6 Years – While I hated Hannah Fidell‘s A Teacher with a passion, I can’t deny that she showed a lot of promise as a filmmaker. A Teacher was one of those film’s that looked great but the story really lacked. 6 Years will mark Fidell’s third feature length film that she has written and directed. Oddly enough, the film has generated a fair amount of buzz and the premise sounds a lot more interesting than a teacher having an affair with her student. I don’t know if I will like this film or not but don’t they usually say “third times the charm?” I am hoping that is the case with Fidell.
7 Chinese Brothers – Bob Byington is super weird and quirky. His last film Somebody Up There Loves Me was bizarre, funny, and oddly, dramatic. Byington is definitely not a mainstream filmmaker but one with a unique sense of filmmaking that belongs in a film festival setting. While I haven’t really loved anything that Jason Schwartzman has done outside his work with Wes Anderson, I will admit that with the right material he can be great. Schwartzman and Byington together feels right to me and I am curious what the overall outcome of this film will be. If you like weird and quirky films, I think this one is worth taking a peak at.
Any of the Midnighter films – Alright, I am cheating here. I have always admitted that I have never been a huge horror fan but one thing that SXSW Film is known for is premiering a lot of great horror films. If you are someone who loves horror films than I strongly recommend picking at least one of the films showing in the Midnighter section. Even though, I don’t love horror, I usually sit through 2-3 horror films at SXSW and they generally turn out to be pretty decent. I don’t know how many I will see this year but Deathgasm and Hangman have caught my attention so far.