SXSW Film Festival

It has been a few days since the last time I found a few minutes to blog about my SXSW adventures. And it’s not for a lack of stories or interesting tales. If Sundance was the internet, than SXSW would be Web 2.0. At Sundance everyone is working (well, actually, that isn’t true because the celebs and Hollywood folk party, but most of the journalists are working). At SXSW, the social atmosphere extends throughout the city of Austin, and probably even beyond the city limits. So instead of listing item by item of what has happened since the last update, I have decided instead to talk about the interesting things.

On Saturday, we caught the Harry Potter fandom documentary We Are Wizards, which was somewhat of an enjoyable mess. The documentary consisted of two parts, one which focused on the emerging music genre of Wizard Rock, and another on the legal battle between the fans and Warner Bros. I’ve had a bunch of experience dealing with movie studio legal departments, yet found that whole portion of the documentary to be rather boring. If they were to recut the feature to focus on the Wizard Rock bands, then the film would be much better for it.

American TeenWe then went to the Alamo Lamar to see American Teen again. I had first caught the film at Sundance after it had been recommended to me by Jason Reitman. Teen was not only my favorite movie of Sundance, but also my favorite movie of the year so far. Finally a documentary with real mainstream appeal. American Teen played even better than I remembered it, and the audience actually cheered in parts. Earlier in the day I found out from my Paramount Vantage rep that Hannah was not available for an interview I had requested earlier in the week. Neil at Film School Rejects also was denied. I wonder what happened, as she was clearly in town. Alex from FirstShowing and myself met up with Hannah outside the screening after it had let out. We learned that she is now going to Film School in New York City. I asked if she was working on a screenplay, and she told me that she just started screenwriting classes, and she’ll eventually get to that. I wish her good luck.

We then headed to Alamo Ritz for Explicit Ills, which was god awful. First time director Mark Webber tried to use every gimmicky film school trick over the course of the agonizing effort. I don’t know how many people from the badge line got in, but it seemed to me to be less than 50 people total. The cast and crew packed the theater with their respective entourage, leaving little room for no one else. Today (Tuesday) I learned that the film won the audience award, which is just so mind blowing, because I have yet to meet someone who loved the film. In fact, I didn’t even get a ballot while walking into the theater, although I noticed that most of the entourage did. Actually, Rosario Dawson actually came out onto the stairs and told those waiting in line inside the theater how to vote for the film. She explained that you rip the 5 on the ballot cards, and demonstrated with her card.

We then headed over to the Explicit Ills party, which was really lame. We saw Morgan Spurlock upstairs for a second, and decided to leave and find something better. We met up with one of our favorite publicists and the guys who made Blip Festival: Reformat The Planet, and hung out at the Iron Cactus until 1:59am magically turned into 3:00am. The guys who made the film are really cool, and I hope their film gets bought.

Peter Sciretta, Neil Miller, Kevin Kelly, Brian, Ken Evans, Mel Valentin, Alex Billington and the Blip Festival Guys

On Sunday we woke up late and picked up the incomparable Mel Valentin from the airport, grabbed a pita sandwich, and stood at the end of a very very long line at The Paramount with Doug from The Movie Blog.

I must admit, I only saw The Promotion because of John C Reilly. I love that guy in nearly everything he does. That aside, I was expecting very little, but was blown away. What a great little comedy this is. I hope that The Weinsteins actually put this in a bunch of theaters, although I’m worried that they have no idea how to promote it. The fact that the film is being distributed under their Dimension Films brand is also very odd and concerning. The Paramount Theater is like San Francisco’s Castro Theater but smaller. Even the seats feel like miniature versions. Brian from Rejects and Ken from FirstShowing went over the Seann William Scott, who was taking a few photos with some hot women after the screening. They mentioned they were from some movie websites and would like to get a few photos. Seann said that he doesn’t like photos of himself and that he wasn’t photogenic enough. Yup, total blowoff.

A combination of Alex and Google Maps got us lost on the way to the Gawker Party. Apparently you need to pay close attention to the East and West street signs. We finally made it to the bar hosting the shindig, but found the place to be too small and loud for our tastes. To be fair, I later learned that there was a huge patio in the back, which was the place to be.

We then went to the Alamo Ritz where I posted the new Indiana Jones poster while waiting in line for a special midnight screening of Dance of the Dead. They were giving away free beer, which made for a rowdy and fun crowd. The Alamo does all sorts of cool promotions like this. Later this month they are showing The Leprechaun, and you get a bowl of Lucky Charms and Green Beer with the price of admission. Very cool. The Alamo makes me wish I lived in Austin. Dance of the Dead was incredibly fun. It felt like a self aware early 80’s zombie film. Lots of good gore as well. During the big climax, a big explosion went off on screen, and the Alamo set off a confetti bomb which covered the entire audience. How cool is this theater?

Nicholas Stoller and Peter ScirettaOn Monday we grabbed some sandwiches from some deli place on 6th street, and then headed over the the Forgetting Sarah Marshall premiere party, where they had free food and drinks. Director Nicholas Stoller, and stars Jason Seagal, Kristen Bell, Russell Brand were in attendance. I got to chat with Stoller for a good ten minutes about Undeclared and Judd Apatow. He seemed genuinely excited to be there, and to have a film that was coming out.

Brian from Rejects and myself approached Kristen Bell for photos. I usually avoid the photo thing, but I’m a huge fan of Bell’s former television show Veronica Mars, plus she’s just hot. She gave us the blow off, explaining that she was hungry and was trying to get to the food for the last ten minutes. She was very nice, but I discounted it as a blow off. Five minutes later guess who taps my shoulder. Kristen fucking Bell, asking us if we still wanted to get photos. We talked about Fanboys (as expected, she still has no idea what’s going on) and a couple other things. Bell was wearing three inch heels and was still short. You have no idea how small this girl is until you see her in person close up.

Kristen Bell and Peter Sciretta

Jason Seagal and Peter ScirettaJason Seagal was also pretty cool, and down to earth. While leaving the party we ran into Russell Brand downstairs in the lobby and I approached him and told him how hilarious I thought he was at WonderCon. He stopped whatever he was doing and gave me a genuine “thank you”. We got photos with Brand, and walked over with him to The Paramount theater, inadvertently walking the press line behind him. You might see me and Neil from Rejects in the paparazzi photos from the event.

Russell Brand and Peter Sciretta

Forgetting Sarah Marshall was also much better than expected. I was actually expecting a flop, but the film had a lot of laughs, and had a very heartfelt underlying core. It’s not the best Apatow film, but it’s a lot of fun, much much much better than Harold and Kumar 2.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall Premiere

We then spent an hour trying to find something good to eat, but resorted to eating from the late night menu at Champions Sports Bar. We then met up with Muhammad Saleem, a friend of ours from the social web, of whom we had never met in person. We went to the IHeartCavemen Gieco party, which was in a cool bar with three levels. We sat outside under the heat lamps, which provided warmth in the cool night air – a weird mixture I’m not use to. We left the party with a big red gift boxes which includes candles, a candle holder, and some other junk.

I’ll be back tomorrow or Thursday with another update. We send mini updates to Twitter throughout the day, so please follow us and tell your friends. Thanks for reading!


Please Recommend /Film on Facebook

New American Teen Movie Poster

American Teen

As you may know, American Teen is my favorite movie of the year so far. It’s the first documentary that has true mainstream appeal. And by that I mean beyond political bounds, and able to tap the minds of the post-MTV / American Idol generation.

I was just able to catch the film for a second time at SXSW, and the audience ate up every minute, and even applauded during some key moments of the story. Our friends at Collider have a photo of the theatrical American Teen poster. I have cleaned the image up a little for your viewing pleasure. I love the minimalistic clean design, but Im not sure this will appeal to the core demographic that this movie needs to attract.

American Teen hits theaters on July 25th 2008.

Video: American Teen

American Teen

American Teen is without a doubt the best film of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. In my opinion, it’s the first documentary with mainstream appeal. The movie was in an intense bidding war between Fox Searchlight and Paramount Vantage, with Vantage taking home the goods. American Teen follows four high school students through their senior year. If Fast Times at Ridgemont High were a documentary, it would look something like American Teen. Check out the Sundance Channel’s Meet The Filmmaker segment on the film, which features a couple clips. I hope Vantage will put together a kick ass trailer soon enough, so you guys can better see what everyone is talking about.

[flv: 440 328]

Sundance Movie Review: American Teen

American Teen

American Teen PosterEarlier in the week when I ran into Jason Reitman, I asked him what he had seen. He stopped, looked me in the face, and slowly but demandingly said “American Teen”, his favorite film of the festival. I tried to attend a press screening of the film earlier in the week, but with the buzz was already out of control, and I found myself shut out. But this morning I woke up at 7:00am and trekked my way over to an early morning screening of the film, and WOW.

I just saw the best film of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Nanette Burstein’s documentary American Teen has major mass appeal, more than any other non-fictional film I’ve ever seen. Burstein followed four teenagers over the course of ten months during their senior year of high school. Compiled from over 1,000 hours of footage, American Teen is the ultimate High School Movie. Imagine the real version of Mean Girls, Can’t Hardly Wait or Class of Ridgemont High.

Set in the small typical midwestern town of Warsaw, Indiana, American Teen follows a self absorbed Cheerleader, a loser video game playing band geek, the basketball star, and the artsy outcast. While at first glance, these descriptions serve as cliche social stereotypes, you will be surprised at how three dimensional these kids are. The drama that is their senior year is both fun, emotional, and at times horrifying. This observational documentary plays out uncensored, giving an surprisingly accurate look at a group of TRL-generation teenagers.

I typically don’t relate to any of the characters in teen movies, probably because I was kind of an outcast in my own right. And the outcasts in films are always played out so over-the-top. The geek has nerd glasses and the artist is extra weird. I found American Teen extremely relatable to my own High School experiences. Hannah is probably the most interesting and relatable character of the bunch. She’s sort of the rebel outcast art-kid, who wants to become a filmmaker and move away to California. She doesn’t want to become a townie like her parents and everyone else in her town. She wants to make something of her life. The video game geek is like so many people I have known over my high school years. The Basketball star is by far the least interesting character of the bunch. His major dilemma is to learn how to share the glory on the court, while hoping for a NCAA college ball team to sign him up. And the cheerleader is so cruel, it is bound to bring back horrifying memories from your own childhood.

I can’t recommend American Teen because JUST recommending the film would be doing the movie a great disservice. I’m telling you that YOU MUST SEE THIS MOVIE. I don’t care if you don’t like documentaries. I don’t care if you don’t like high school tales. You NEED to see this movie. Paramount needs to release this movie to the multiplexes.

/Film Rating: 9.5 out of 10

2008 Sundance Movie Posters

Here is the first batch of movie posters for films premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Check them out after the jump. Enjoy.

Read More »