Eric D. Snider

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Archive for March 13th, 2006

SXSW Diary: Day 3

Monday, March 13th, 2006

Day 3: Sunday, March 12

We were all late in arising this morning. Erik and Scott both reported that my snoring was better, which assuaged my guilt, though I confess my guilt is easily assuaged. (One good anagram of “assuaged” is “sausaged.”) My first order of business was to drop by the press office, which I hadn’t yet had occasion to visit.

Like the press lounges at Sundance and CineVegas, the SXSW one has computers for us to use, tables for lounging, and a few complimentary beverages. They don’t have much in the way of press kits, though, which are often invaluable for writing reviews because they include cast lists and plot summaries (handy for when you see 30 movies in one week and your memory needs a nudge weeks later). All the films have publicists on hand, but what most of them do instead of providing real press kits is to just print up glossy full-color one-sheets — advertisements, basically, which they strew around the press office in a reckless manner. I’m all for SXSW being cooler and less rigid than other fests, but sometimes it’s better to be a grownup, you know?

One thing the press lounge had that was unique to my experience was free massages. There was a guy there, a professional (I gathered), with a chair set up and everything. I saw him but didn’t pay attention to him nor realize what his purpose was until I heard someone approach him and say, “Are the massages complimentary?” (Even though everyone at film festivals wants free stuff, no one ever uses the word “free.” They say “complimentary” or “open,” as in, “Does the party have an open bar?” Which it does, by the way.) The massages were indeed complimentary, and you just have to plop down in the chair and let the guy go to town on your back, neck and shoulders.

Alas, he was soon occupied with the guy who said “complimentary,” and I had to leave. But I hope to enjoy a complimentary rubbing before the week is through.

I bought a slice of pizza again as I walked over to the Paramount for a 1:30 screening of a film called “Gretchen.” Erik joined me and fell asleep halfway through it; I stayed awake and loved it. I know I just compared something to “Napoleon Dynamite” yesterday, but it’s even more applicable here. In fact, about 15 minutes in, I thought: I’m watching this year’s “Napoleon Dynamite.” It has the same quirky vibe, the same small-town characters, quiet tone and semi-absurdist view of high school. The festival’s printed film guide, I later noticed, compares the title character to a cross between Dawn Wiener from “Welcome to the Dollhouse” and Deb from “Napoleon Dynamite,” and that’s exactly right. I look forward to seeing this one again.

Erik and I walked back to the convention center and festival headquarters, stopping on the way to eat at a restaurant we couldn’t find, which means we didn’t eat there after all. I had noticed a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop in my travels, and I have fond memories of that chain as a good cheap place to eat. But when Erik and I looked for it, it was nowhere to be found, gone like the city of Brigadoon. So we just went to headquarters, where I wrote for a while.

Scott was there, and he and I wound up at the Registrants Lounge, which is a completely useless place for all festival-goers to hang out. It’s outdoors under a tent, so it’s hot and humid, and the complimentary beverages consist of beer and water. Scott ran into a couple publicists and a filmmaker he loves and kindly invited me to join him as he chatted with them, but I was feeling hungry and anti-social, so I went in search of a place to eat. (One time I used the term “anti-social” in that context and I got an e-mail from someone pointing out that the way we use “anti-social” colloquially is highly inaccurate. He said what I mean to say is “non-social” or “unsocial.” So to make “anti-social” more apropos, I killed him.)

6th Street is crawling with eating establishments, so I chose one at random called BD Riley’s Irish Pub. The only available seating was at the bar, where I deposited myself and asked the bartender for a menu. The bartender, who looked just like Mike Novick on “24,” produced it cheerfully and asked what I’d like to drink. I ordered a Diet Coke, which he brought me and thereupon ceased to acknowledge my existence.

It was truly strange. He brought new drinks to the guys next to me, took the food order of two girls next to them, and refused to even make eye contact with me. The only thing I can figure is that since I wasn’t having big-boy drinks, he wasn’t going to waste his time with me. Finally I left $2 on the bar to cover the Diet Coke and left in search of an eatery that actually wanted my business. BD Riley’s Irish Pub: the first Austin restaurant to get on Snider’s List.

Next I tried the Jackalope, a pub that has menus on the tables yet requires you to walk to the kitchen to order food, and possibly to make it yourself. Maybe it’s only certain days it’s like that, but I wasn’t having any of it. I was going to sit somewhere, have someone ask me what I wanted, and then allow that person to bring it to me. None of these stipulations were negotiable.

At last I found what I was looking for in a 6th Street pub called, fittingly, Paradise. A cheerful girl told me to sit wherever I wanted, and then she brought me a menu and took my order. The food was decent, it was reasonably priced, and I was able to read my book (“Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safron Foer) in comfort. Thus Paradise earned a spot on Snider’s List (the other one).

(Side note: You know what I keep seeing on menus in Austin? Fried pickles. Someone told me I really need to try them. I disagree with that position.)

I saw two movies at the Paramount next. First was “The Cassidy Kids,” an uneven blend of comedy and intrigue about the reunion of five people who, as children, solved a local murder. That event was the inspiration for a (fictional) kids’ sitcom that ran from 1982-86, but even now certain questions about the original mystery remain unanswered. The film stars Kadeem Hardison, who you may remember as Dwayne Wayne on “A Different World,” or possibly as the guy who asks for change outside of Hardee’s. It’s a great idea — the reunion of people who watched fictionalized versions of themselves on TV for four seasons — but the mystery element is ridiculously handled.

Will had joined us at some point, and next we watched “Even Money,” an Afterschool Special sort of melodrama that explains why Gambling Is Bad. Reason #1: It makes you lose money. Reason #2: It apparently makes you overact, too, though it’s possible you’re only susceptible to that if you’re Kim Basinger, who plays a casino-addicted wife. Kelsey Grammer wears a fake nose and plays a hard-boiled homicide detective. You should probably see the movie just for that, actually, and for no other reason.

The director, Mark Rydell, was sitting just across the aisle from us, which made it very awkward when we laughed at the unintentionally funny parts of his movie. It also makes it awkward when, as everyone’s leaving the theater, we’re walking past him saying, “HOLY CRAP WAS THAT BAD!!”

It was then time for, yes, another party. Three nights, three parties. This one was at Maggie Mae’s again, but on the ground floor. Apparently the upper level was reserved for some magical special party for special people only, and scum like SXSW passholders weren’t allowed. But on the plus side, we ran into our new best friends Amber and Greg, as well as their friend (and our third new best friend) Kristina. This time we took some pictures, in case you didn’t believe us that we have new best friends.

Rumors were spreading that Wednesday’s to-be-announced slot would be a screening of “A Scanner Darkly,” Richard Linklater’s new film based on a Philip K. Dick story. This makes the third time at SXSW that I have had to mention a celebrity with the last name Dick. The rumor couldn’t be confirmed, but it seemed reasonable, especially considering Linklater is a Texan.

This party was sponsored by the movie “Darkon,” which I have not seen but which Scott says is fantastic. The subject matter didn’t interest me: It’s a documentary about a group that engages in live-action role-playing games. In other words, rather than just sitting around playing “Dungeons & Dragons,” they actually put on homemade costumes and pretend to fight with homemade weapons.

I should choose my words carefully here, I think, but let me just say that I think role-playing games are stupid and the people who play them are losers. Wait, wait, that totally came out wrong. What I mean is, I hate those people. No. Shoot. I’m sorry. I don’t have a point. But I wasn’t planning to see the movie until I went to this party, which made the film seem fun and which was heavily attended by people who had already seen it and were raving about it. Does it count as “buzz” if the only place I’ve heard it is at a party sponsored by the film being buzzed about? Or is that more like propaganda? Eh, whatever. I decided I’ll see “Darkon” tomorrow. It’s playing during the slot where I was going to see “Summercamp,” a documentary about kids’ summer camps, but forget that. Those kids can all go to hell.

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