SXSW 2001 By Scott Calonico. Another March in Austin, Texas and another South By Southwest festival. Though I have had a somewhat strained relationship with SXSW, I have to give them props for what they’ve accomplished...

Another March in Austin, Texas and another South By Southwest festival. Though I have had a somewhat strained relationship with SXSW, I have to give them props for what they’ve accomplished. They took what was typically the slowest week of the entire year and turned it into the number one moneymaking week in the State’s capital. This week is so important that many new businesses in the downtown entertainment district race against the clock to open their doors in time to rake in the SXSW cash.

During the early years, SXSW was a great reason to stick around town and see a bunch of bands on the cheap. Same thing with the Film Festival portion of the festival, lots of films and parties that you could easily walk into.

That hasn’t been the case over the past few years. Patrons of SXSW have had increasing difficulty accessing any of the shows or screenings. Moreover, if the event is a “hot” band or film, you may as well forget it. Unless, that is, you happen to have one of the all access Mega-Platium Gold Cyber passes that are like $1500 a pop or something.

I can remember one particular night in 1996, standing in line at Emo’s, waiting to get into a friend’s showcase, and thinking, “Okay, normally this place would be dead at 9PM on a Wednesday and yet, not only do I have to wait in line, but these pass-wearing yahoos get to cut in front of me because they make more money than I do.”

Since then, I’ve been one to curtail my SXSW activities until this year when CdC honcho Mike White hooked me up with a SXSW Press Pass and I braved the crowds to take in the SXSW 2001 Film Festival.

Delirium 4.0
These Austin-ites stayed up for twenty-four hours, put on an improv show, and videotaped it. Delirium 4.0 is the result of this madness. Aptly named, this is truly demented and features one of the best Jim Morrison impersonations ever.

Electric Heartbreaker
Taking its cue from Spike Jonze’s “Praise You” video for Fatboy Slim, Electric Heartbreaker is a cool short about two guys who form a performance team. They employ a bunch of cheesy-ass Casio keyboards and outrageously clownish dance moves. The best part? They take it completely seriously.

The Zeros
Set in the early 21st century, The Zeros asks two questions: What would you do if you had only a few days to live? And, what would you do if you were confronted with your first love many years later? The film balances some hilarious and emotional moments well. Watch for Kyle Glass’s cameo as a ventriloquist whose dummy meets a fitting end.

David and Nathan Zellner made a foreign film with subtitles and a phonetically consistent gibberish script. Set in the fictional country of Bulbovia—a forgotten Eastern European Communist nation—Frontier is the story of two men on government assignment to explore and occupy the “untouched” area near Bulbovia. Insanity ensues and men settle their differences by strapping dead chickens to their fists and duking it out. Frontier is a very impressive work with a great performance by Nathan Zellner.

As exciting as a bag of wet rocks, this movie had two great things going for it-the Melville short story it’s based upon, and Crispin Glover’s performance-but still failed miserably to entertain.

How’s Your News
Knowing that the South Park guys produced this made me feel that it was more exploitation than good-natured fun. How’s Your News is a documentary of mentally challenged folks on the road producing their own news show.

Low Self-Esteem Girl
God knows why Low Self-Esteem Girl won accolades and 30K. While the study of Christianity and drug culture was conceptually interesting, the acting, dialogue, and characters were all hollow.

Waking Life
Though it wasn’t a SXSW Film, Richard Linklater’s newest effort screened during the week. The “plot” is basically “Slacker II.” While I liked Dazed and Confused, I still don’t get the fascination with Slacker. I watch it to spot my friends and see places that aren’t here anymore (the cafe where characters had the “scooby snack” discussion is now a Starbucks).

What makes Waking Life interesting is the animation software developed for the film. The artists who worked on the film are calling it “Rotoshop” because it allows you to Rotoscope just about anything. The guy who developed the software, Bob Sabiston, has been showing shorts of the techniques for a few years now at film festivals around the country.

At Sundance Linklater admitted how pretentious this film would be without the animation. Let me just say this: Mr. Sabiston needs to start shopping around for a new coat because he’s got an awful lot of people riding on his tails right now. Sabiston single-handedly makes the film worth watching.

Okie Noodline
Winner of the Audience Award for Best Documentary Film, Okie Noodline is about hicks in Oklahoma who fish for catfish in holes at the riverbanks (that’s what they call noodling). This is dangerous as snakes and beavers can kill you! Overall, it was neat, but about a half hour too long. More than that, the filmmakers rigged the climactic “noodling contest.”

Other excitement in Austin during the week included the “anti-SXSW” fests: Zombiefest and South By Southeast. Sticking by their anti-discriminatory policy against the undead, the organizers of Zombiefest (aka ZXZW) kept the fare light proving that comedy is the best medicine for self-important movie stars.

Meanwhile, newcomer South By South East (SXSE) reveled in egomania by spotlighting a special director’s cut of Garry Marshall’s The Other Sister. A web site went up and a press release went out to inform the public. Unfortunately neither the director, the film, or the actual film festival ever materialized. Let’s hope they get their act together for next year.

Apart from rigged noodling and trying to stay clear of obnoxious celebrities, SXSW was a fairly fun time. Like any other festival, SXSW is a great chance to catch some up and coming (and not so up and coming) filmmakers. If you’re going to be in town for the music fest anyway, it’s worth it to come in a few days early—before the madness really starts—and get in some good quality movie watching. Just don’t forget the $1500 for your pass.

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