The 2009 South By Southwest Film Festival kicks off tonight, most notably with the world premiere of "I Love You Man," the fest's Opening Night selection. Variety and The Hollywood Reporter already have dueling reviews of the Paul Rudd/Jason Segel comedy . With the former's Todd McCarthy calling it "a Judd Apatow clone" with a "deeply lame central premise that makes most of the action seem fraudulent and thoroughly unnecessary," and the latter's Stephen Farber saying: "The movie has the crude moments -- including fart and vomit jokes -- that the genre requires, but it also has genuine wit and perception. It's a rare comedy that actually grows funnier on reflection. It benefits enormously from the talents of the two stars."
For those just settling into the SXSW festivities, indieWIRE has a variety of preparatory articles for you, incuding a guide to SXSW host Austin's best places to eat, drink, shop and chill, including some of our own tips "gleaned during our past jaunts to Texas"; a complete list of the films screening; an interview with freshman SXSW producer Janet Pierson; and an assortment of Q&As with SXSW filmmakers, including “Breaking Upwards” Director Daryl Wein, “That Evening Sun” Director Scott Teems, “The Overbrook Brothers” Director John Bryant, “It Was Great, But I Was Ready to Come Home” Director Kris Swanberg, “Garbage Dreams” Director Mai Iskander, and "Alexander The Last" Director Joe Swanberg (which also includes the film's trailer).
"Last" is also the first of many indieWIRE "snapshot reviews" to come out of SXSW, with Eric Kohn noting: "Although few scenes seem a bit misplaced (one where the siblings imitate baby sounds sort of irritated me), “Alexander” generally develops with a swift pace and credible performances. It’s a truly cinematic achievement, gorgeously shot by Swanberg with intriguingly symbolic mise-en-scene. He has made an authentic feature-length movie, not a mere accumulation of moments. The results—finally!—illuminate his strengths as a director. Now we know what he was going for in the first place."
The Chronicle's Kimberely Jones offers a warm welcome to visitors, while her colleague Andy Campbell gives a queer guide to the fest: "So I wanted to let you in on screenings and film events that queers might really love… now, of course, this list is by no means comprehensive and represents only my own tastes and proclivities. This year there are precious fewer than last, but the selections are sweet." Picks include "Sissyboy," "Lesbian Vampire Killers," "Butthole Lickin'," "Humpday," "The 2 Bobs," and, of course, the sneak peek of "Bruno."
Over at Austin 360 (the website of the Austin American-Statesman), there's already loads of capsule reviews, including: ‘For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism', 'Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo', 'Beeswax', 'The Way We Get By', 'Motherland', and many more.
Outside the Austin papers, Film Threat has a great interview with Janet Pierson. "Festivals really are looking to premiere work they think is original and moving and just, well...works," Pierson says in the interview. "The competition is overwhelming, but some films just jump out. I feel for filmmakers, because it is really hard. I don't technically what makes one film completely compelling and another a mix- it's an alchemy. On the practical side, it does help to have advocates. That doesn't mean having too many people call or pestering festival programmers yourselves. But having a few, real genuine advocates? That's helpful. Programmers do talk to one another, and to a whole stream of associates in the filmmaking world. There's also a crazy randomness to it that you can't really do anything about. There are plenty of quite good films that don't make the cut for any number of reasons - something else is too similar, or it's too long or short. I wish I had an easy answer but I don't."
Christopher Campbell of Spout does a SXSW-related roundup, with an entry point that he (like me) is not actually attending the festival: "So, I’ve decided to highlight some recent SXSW-related posts from other blogs in anticipation of the festival. I won’t be there this year, and the Bloggery posts will be taking a week off in order to let SpoutBlog focus on film reviews, interviews and other SXSW goodies, so this is my one chance to be a part of the SXSW fun, albeit from a very cold, very jealous perspective up here in NYC."
Of course, your main SXSW information source over the next 10 days should remain here at indieWIRE, where we'll be giving you a constant flow of reviews, photos, on-the-scene coverage, and these very roundups.