Day 6: Wednesday, March 14
The film festival continues through Saturday, but the film conference — the panels and booths and so forth, which I don’t pay attention to — ended Tuesday. Today is the start of the music festival and conference, so a lot of the filmgoers are filtering out of town, and they’re being replaced with music people. Austin’s streets are even more flooded than before, now with skinny, shaggy-haired guys and foul-mouthed chicks who have tattoos on their lower backs. Everyone is either in a band or looks like they should be in a band. At 32, I am now the oldest person in Austin.
My first film of the day was at 1:15, and it was “Orphans.” Weinberg met me there. It was in the convention center’s theater, which seats a few hundred and was maybe 20 percent full. I took a seat, went to the restroom, then came back to discover the Audible Reactor from yesterday now sitting in front of me. What social injustices might “Orphans” address that she would have to gasp loudly at in order to make sure we knew how appalled she was? I didn’t know what “Orphans” was about — orphans, I figured — so I moved several rows away, just to be safe.
The film quickly rose to the top of my list of Worst Films I’ve Seen at SXSW. It is the “story” of two sisters whose parents died when the girls were young (in a car accident, of course), and now the girls are grown and they sort of talk and sort of have fights and sort of passive-aggressively harass one another, but they really don’t do anything. The dialogue is stilted, badly written, and badly delivered, and the film is nothing but dialogue. It’s the longest 80 minutes ever captured on digital video.
Weinberg and I next found a city bus going to the Dobie Mall. I went to the Dobie once last year and found it grossly inconvenient, being located far north of downtown. This year, when I looked at the schedule of films, the first thing I did was cross out the ones I’d already seen at Sundance, and then the ones showing at the Dobie.
But we wanted to see “Cherry Valley,” which purported to be a thriller about a haunted house, and there wasn’t much else showing at this hour anyway. The bus proved to be reliable enough, and we ran into Greg and a buddy of his at the theater, along with Mike Cerda of The Film Lot, whom we met in Park City back in January. Lo and behold, Christina and her boyfriend were there, too. It was an impromptu party at the Dobie!
Too bad the movie totally blew. And you know, I might have guessed. It was playing in SXSW’s “Emerging Visions” category, which is the equivalent of Sundance’s “Frontier” or “Spectrum” groups, i.e., “movies that aren’t good enough to be in competition, but we have to pad out the schedule, so we dump them over here at the crappy venue in the crappy category.”
“Cherry Valley” is first and foremost a “Blair Witch Project” rip-off, except that I never actually believed it was a real documentary. What’s more, it’s not creepy, scary, interesting, or fun. Every single one of us loathed it, possibly even more than I loathed “Orphans,” a mere two hours earlier. This day had not begun well.
Mike had a rental car at the Dobie, so he transported me and Weinberg from there to our next destination, where the three of us saw something that I’m not allowed to tell you about. Sorry. It was really fun, though. Sorry.
Then I had to dash over to the Paramount for “Reign over Me,” which opens in a few weeks and stars Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle. Sandler plays a guy whose family died in 9/11, causing him to completely shut down and live like a hermit. Cheadle plays his college roommate who finds him after all these years and tries to help him.
It took me 45 minutes to get from where I had been back to the Paramount; lucky for me, the film started a half-hour late, so I arrived just as it was beginning. I had missed the live introduction by Cheadle and Sandler, but they would be back afterward for the Q-and-A. The stench of Sandler still hung heavy in the air.
Now, the problem with showing an Adam Sandler film at a film festival, apart from the damage that the Horsemen of the Apocalypse do to the theater carpeting, is that it causes Adam Sandler fans to attend the film festival too. There were several loud brayers in the audience, hyuk-hyuk-hyukking every time Sandler said or did anything intended to be funny, whether it actually succeeded or not. Someone brought their little kids, too, which is incredibly stupid, given a) the film’s R rating, and b) the film’s utterly non-kid-friendly subject matter.
The movie isn’t bad. Sandler seems like he’s auditioning for the lead in “The Bob Dylan Story” at first, all crazy-haired and mumbly, but he’s surprisingly good in his dramatic scenes later on.
More dashing next, and no time to stick around for the Q-and-A. The late start on “Reign over Me” had made me dangerously close to missing my midnight movie at the South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse, “Grimm Love.” (Actually, the film’s onscreen title is “Butterfly: A Grimm Love Story,” and I’m told it will have yet another title when it’s actually released.) It’s based on a true story from a few years ago in which a man killed and ate another man. The twist was that the entire thing was consensual: The “victim” WANTED to be eaten. Two facts of the case that probably go without saying are that they met on the Internet, and that this occurred in Germany.
The film is shot in a dark, beautiful way, with much attention focused on lights and shadows to create haunting images. Unfortunately, the story is not very well told in other respects. We never really do understand why the man wants to be eaten; we know he has guilt issues with his mother’s suicide, but that’s about it. Moreover, the whole story is told through the eyes of a grad student (Keri Russell) who’s investigating the incident years later, and she proves to be a completely superfluous character. You keep waiting for there to be some reason for her presence — maybe she’ll become obsessed with it; maybe she’ll become a cannibal herself; maybe someone from the cannibal community will eat her — but nope, nothin’.
It may seem a little perverse to be eating chicken strips and French fries while watching “Grimm Love,” but that’s what I did. It’s the Drafthouse. You gotta eat.