‘First Match,’ ‘TransMilitary’ take top SXSW Audience Awards

Olivia Newman’s “First Match” and Gabriel Silverman and Fiona Dawson’s “TransMilitary” took the SXSW 2018 Audience awards for narrative and documentary feature competition respectively.

RELATED: Review: “TransMilitary”

Here are the rest of the winners

NARRATIVE SPOTLIGHT
Audience Award Winner: “All Square”
Director: John Hyams

DOCUMENTARY SPOTLIGHT
Audience Award Winner: “The Dawn Wall”
Director: Josh Lowell, Peter Mortimer

VISIONS
Audience Award Winner: “Profile”
Director: Timur Bekmambetov

MIDNIGHTERS
Audience Award Winner: “Upgrade”
Director: Leigh Whannell

EPISODIC
Audience Award Winner: “Vida”
Director: Alonso Ruizpalacios, So Yong Kim

24 BEATS PER SECOND
Audience Award Winner: “Ruben Blades Is Not My Name”
Director: Abner Benaim

GLOBAL
Audience Award Winner: “Virus Tropical”
Director: Santiago Caicedo

FESTIVAL FAVORITES
Audience Award Winner: “Science Fair”
Director: Cristina Costantini, Darren Foster

SXSW Film Design Awards

EXCELLENCE IN TITLE DESIGN
Audience Award Winner: #19 – Offf Barcelona 2017
Directors: Eve Duhamel, Julien Vallee

Additional screenings have been scheduled for this evening for all Audience Award winners except Headliners:

Audience Award: 24 Beats Per Second
“Ruben Blades Is Not My Name”
March 17, Alamo Ritz 1, 7:30 PM

Audience Award: Documentary Feature Competition
“TransMilitary”
March 17, Alamo Lamar A, 4:30 PM

Audience Award: Documentary Spotlight
“The Dawn Wall”
March 17, Stateside Theatre, 5:00 PM

Audience Award: Festival Favorites
“Science Fair”
March 17, Alamo Lamar B, 8:15 PM

Audience Award: Midnighters
“Upgrade”
March 17, Alamo Lamar A, 11:00 PM

Audience Award: Narrative Feature Competition
“First Match”
March 17, Alamo Lamar A, 7:30 PM

Audience Award: Narrative Spotlight
“All Square”
March 17, Stateside Theatre, 8:00 PM

Audience Award: Global
“Virus Tropical”
March 17, Alamo Ritz 2, 5:30 PM

Audience Award: Visions
“Profile”
March 17, Alamo Lamar B, 5:15 PM

 

 

The moving ‘If I Leave Here Tomorrow’ chronicles Lynyrd Skynyrd

[cmg_anvato video=”4344207″ autoplay=”true”]

“Musicians are a rare breed — once it gets in their blood, they have to go after it” — Judy Van Zant, widow of Ronnie Van Zant

Are you in the market for an incredibly well-made, super professional, smartly-edited, fully licensed and extremely unlikely to be controversial documentary about an interesting musician or group?

Then, brother, Stephen Kijak is your man.

Starting with his outstanding “Scott Walker: 30 Century Man” (2006), Kijak has made excellent docs on the Backstreet Boys, Jaco Pastorius, the Rolling Stones and X Japan. He works his slick magic again with the moving “If I Leave Here Tomorrow,” bankrolled by CMT and likely airing on the network later this year.

Rising out of a Jacksonville, Fla., garage band called One Percent, Lynyrd Skynyrd took their name from both the name “Leonard Skinner” from “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah” and a high school coach who happened to have the same name.

RELATED: 10 docs to watch out for at SXSW

The band honed its chops the old-fashioned way, rehearsing and writing morning, noon and night at “Hell House,” a cabin in the middle of nowhere where the band could work out music. It was also close enough to water than Ronnie could go fishing while writing lyrics in his head, Biggie Smalls-style. These were the salad days — as one member puts it, “Hell House was the reward.”

Al Kooper, who helmed the first two albums, was floored by the band’s airtight prowess on even the guitar solos. Those records cut like butter, while the rest of their output was sometimes marred by writing-in-the-studio and, um, lifestyle choices.

Kijak talks to folks who are around and gets tremendous archival footage (and stunning bell bottoms) of those who are not. There’s guitarist Gary Rossington and Ronnie’s brother Johnny Van Zant, who lets us see the Jacksonville neighborhood where the band was born.

There’s the fascinating Artimus Pyle, the “left wing liberal hippie” who replaced original drummer Bob Burns (who all but had a nervous breakdown due to, well, the hazards of being in Skynyrd).

PHOTOS: “If I Leave Here Tomorrow” red carpet

“I think they felt (the band was) supposed to smoke every cigarette and drink everything provided and eat whatever they wanted and throw the rest against the wall,’ Pyle says. “That was our road manager’s duty – to carry a briefcase with probably $250,000 in cash to bail people out of jail and placate hotel owners.”

There’s Ed King, the California kid who hailed from the Strawberry Alarm Clock, co-wrote “Sweet Home Alabama,” and filled out the three guitar lineup until he bounced in ’75 after Van Zant’s temper got to be a bit much.

Kijak also cuts between band history and an inevitable look at the October 1977 plane crash that killed Ronnie Van Zant, King’s replacement Steve Gaines and Steve’s sister Cassie (as well as assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray), effectively ending the band for a decade. Surviving members recount the horror of crashing in the middle of nowhere in the farmland of Gillsburg, Mississippi (“like hearing 10,000 baseball bats on the side of the fuselage” as they started to hit the trees).

“The one thing I want the world to know about my band is how bravely my band met their death,” Pyle says in the documentary. “Everyone knew it was gonna end badly. There was no panic, no chaos; everybody was in prayer, in deep thought.”

“If I Leave Here Tomorrow” plays again at 1:45 p.m. March 17 at Alamo Ritz 1. Grade: A-

SXSW 2018: ‘Lean on Pete’ shows why Charlie Plummer is destined to be a star

“Lean on Pete” tugs at the heartstrings in the best way, and most of that tugging is the direct result of the acting of Charlie Plummer, who appears poised to become one of our most versatile young stars.

In “Pete,” the 18-year-old who played John Paul Getty III in “All the Money in the World” is guided by the low-key yet distinctive British director Andrew Haigh, whose earlier credits include “45 Years,” “Weekend” and HBO’s “Looking.”

Plummer plays Charley Thompson, who’s being raised by his single father, Ray (Travis Fimmel), and the two have recently moved to Portland, Ore., because of work. Charley likes to go on runs during the summer vacation and discovers that they’re living near a quarter horse racetrack. He’s fascinated with the track and especially with a horse named Lean on Pete, who is owned and trained by the cranky Del Montgomery (Steve Buscemi).

Del notices that Charley isn’t afraid to pitch in and help in order to be around Pete, so he offers him a part-time job. While at work, Charley also meets Bonnie (Chloe Sevigny), a local jockey who is good friends with Del.

RELATED: 20 movies to look for at South by Southwest

All of this sounds fairly straightforward – and somewhat old-fashioned – from a narrative perspective. And the movie is indeed traditional. But the movie stands out from many others because of Plummer’s performance. It’s hard to watch him and not understand the loneliness and need for connection that’s just under Charley’s skin. And the scenes between Charley and the horse are classic in the way that they develop the bonding between a teen and an animal.

Without giving away too many spoilers, Charley’s home life takes a drastic turn for the worse, and then so does his life at the track. So Charley takes off with Pete on an epic journey to find his aunt – whom he has not seen in many years but remembers fondly.

RELATED: 10 tips to make the most of your SXSW Film experience

For the cynical among us, the narrative might smack of sentimentality, like an afternoon family TV movie. The cynical among us would be wrong when it comes to “Lean on Pete.” Yes, it’s hard not to shed tears throughout Charley’s ordeal, but Haigh does not hammer us over the head. Instead, he shows Charley’s resilience, his longing for love and his desire to finally find a safe home – for him and the horse.

The book is based on a novel of the same name by Willy Vlautin. He and Haigh worked on adapting it for the big screen.

But this movie is all about Plummer’s Charley. Go see it, and you’ll understand why. The guy has acting chops – in spades.

“Lean on Pete’ had its South by Southwest premiere on Friday. It screens again at 6:15 p.m. March 11 at the AFS Cinema and 2:15 p.m. March 14 at the Alamo South. Grade: B+

SXSW 2017: ‘Life’ star Jake Gyllenhaal is doing just fine on Earth, thanks

 

The following contains mild spoilers for “Life.”

This just in: Jake Gyllenhaal could not stay on the International Space Station for a year.

Gyllenhaal: “No. No. No way. Physically, there would be no use for me up there other than potential entertainment. I would be hopeless in any other way.”

David Jordan, his character in Daniel Espinosa’s new sci-fi thriller “Life,” has spent more than a year up there and is among the six person crew (including Ryan Reynolds) who make first contact with life retrieved from Mars. When said encounter goes from thrilling and kind of cute to ARGHHH NOOOOO, it is up to Jordan and his crew to fight a creature that seems rather hearty for a newborn.

Jake Gyllenhaal in “Life”

We’re sitting outside the Hotel Saint Cecilia. It’s about 10 a.m. the Sunday after South by Southwest. The night before, Gyllenhaal walked the red carpet for “Life,” which closed the film festival. He isn’t staying here all that long — dude’s in the middle of a well-regarded, 10-week Broadway engagement as the lead in Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George.”

Truth be told, it’s probably a good thing he is an actor (and an extremely hard-working one at that). Gyllenhaal says astronaut was never in the cards.

“It’s just never been a legitimate interest of mine. I really never wanted to go up and out there,” he says. “Someone told me about the sorts of people they are looking for to go on the Mars mission and it turns out they’re looking for people who are essentially stamp collectors. And I am maybe the furthest from that. I was the kid always being sent outside. So I don’t know how that would work on the way to Mars.”

But fictional astronauts? Totally fine. “I read the script, and it was terrifying,”  Gyllenhaal said, “and I thought this will be really elevated because of all the incredible people involved, but it was also just, why not have some fun on a movie?”

In keeping with the stamp collector idea, Gyllenhaal’s Jordan is a quiet fellow. “Someone who has been up there that long is going to be more of an observer than a do-er or a go-getter. That is more Ryan’s character.”

As for the creature itself, with which Gyllenhaal and his pals end up doing a not insignificant amount of battle, one had to use one’s imagination. “The creature was a bit of an abstraction. It was Daniel’s intention that we interact with it in a way that wasn’t false, but we also had to use our imagination. He shoots in a really elegant way. He knows he needs pieces, and he knows he needs something from the actors; he’ll shoot for a while knowing what he needs and knowing where to find it. We had earpieces in, and he would be speaking to us while he was watching monitors, saying things like,  “Now it’s over there, it’s coming at your left side.’ But we had no real idea of what it looked like.”

And, no, the cast did not do any time in a Vomit Comet for the weightless sequences.

“Man, I would have loved that,” Gyllenhaal said. “No, it was all wires, and that is a very strange thing, as you are being handled by four people on a soundstage as you attempt to say your lines and remember scientific jargon.”

But Gyllenhaal said he welcomed any kind of tension in such a controlled environment. “It did start to feel very isolated,” he said “It was dark all day long on these stages, and since you are on wires, you are incapable of moving and in a very small space. That is something that was useful in building the characters.”

Just don’t expect him to actually head to Mars any time soon.

“Life” opens in theaters March 24.

10 highlights from the SXSW Film Festival

From left, Rooney Mara, Michael Fassbender and Ryan Gosling star in Terrence Malick’s “Song to Song.” Contributed by Van Redin / Broad Green Pictures

Joe Gross:

Oddly, the visceral dislike I experienced at “Song to Song” was a South by Southwest highlight for me.  Rarely have I gotten so angry at a film so quickly, and rarely has a film continued to build on that which is generating the rage. It is gorgeous, but, boy howdy, is it not ever about Austin or musicians. I suspect the movie was a bit rage-inducing for anyone who takes music seriously, but, hey, your mileage may vary.

For the exact opposite feeling, there is Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver.” Yes, it is a trifle, but it’s one of the better movies you will see this year about the centrality of music in people’s lives. Look for it in theaters in August.

I also thoroughly enjoyed (if that is the appropriate word) Jennifer Brea’s documentary “Unrest,” a fascinating look at a woman (Brea herself) struggling with myalgic encephalopathy, the condition formerly (and somewhat dismissively) known as chronic fatigue syndrome. I was especially taken with the other stories Brea and her team gathered, from the athletic young man whose condition has reduced him to a husk and the young woman in Denmark who was forcibly removed from her family and institutionalized against her will.

Perhaps my very favorite moment came at the very end of Leonard Maltin’s interview with Frank Oz, when a gentleman in the audience asked Oz about an article in Salon called “How the Muppets created Generation X”  and how the piece suggests that a lot of the values that Gen-Xers tend to have in common were communicated by the various Muppet venues. “Tell me in your opinion what those values are,” Oz said.

“Acceptance, tolerance, curiosity, enthusiasm for diversity,” the gentleman said.

“You could just say one word for that, and that’s Jim,” Oz said. “That’s what we learned. He never shared his philosophy verbally, he just was who he was and we followed him because all those words and more were Jim’s moral compass.”

Amen.

Charles Ealy:

It’s known as a film festival, but some of the biggest highlights of this year’s event were the TV premieres.

The most-anticipated one for Texans was AMC’s premiere of the first two episodes of “The Son,” based on the epic Texas tale by Austin’s Philipp Meyer. It stars Pierce Brosnan as patriarch Eli McCullough, who is kidnapped by Indians and grows up to found a cattle and oil empire. It starts showing on AMC on April 8 and will last for 10 episodes. Five seasons are tentatively planned, depending on ratings.

“American Gods,” which will premiere April 30 on Starz, was also a hit with SXSW crowds. It’s based on the book by Neil Gaiman — and it is WAY out there, with incredible visuals and inventive storytelling. It stars Ricky Whittle as Shadow Moon and Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday.

And then there was Justin Simien’s “Dear White People,” a timely take on race relations in America, told from multiple perspectives of various students at a fictional Ivy League university. It will be on Netflix, but a release date has not yet been announced.

Evan Rodriguez:

As the sun set on the long, arduous yet fun journey that was SXSW 2017, some films truly rose above the fray.

Elijah Bynum’s “Hot Summer Nights” should be the sexy and scintillating summer film of 2017. Through an auteur’s lens, Bynum subverts the summer romance/coming-of-age-drama formula and delivers a dark, smart, well-crafted hard-truth love story set to a killer soundtrack.

John Carrol Lynch’s “Lucky” is a refreshing existential meditation with Harry Dean Stanton, which has the potential to reach beyond fanboys and the initiated with its thoughtful musings.

While I struggled with James Franco’s work-in-progress “The Disaster Artist,” I ultimately cannot deny its odd allure and the Franco brothers’ organic on-screen dynamic, and especially James Franco’s performance as the bizarre Tommy Wiseau.

RELATED

Meth, Muppets and music: Five of our favorite documentaries from SXSW

A scene from “Meth Storm: Arkansas USA”

The documentary slate at South by Southwest this year was as strong as ever. Our critics saw nearly two dozen docs; here are five of their favorites.

“Meth Storm: Arkansas USA”: Charles Ealy says this documentary about meth addiction in lower-income America  “has a weird vibe. It’s undeniably groundbreaking. But it’s also undeniably troubling, from an ethical standpoint.” The filmmakers appear to have been given incredible access to law enforcement authorities, but they also feature families caught up in the drug trade, including young children who add a disturbing element to the movie. HBO will be distributing this film; no release date has been set.
REVIEW: The meth doc at SXSW raises a lot of questions

“Stranger Fruit”: This documentary about the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., made national news on its world premiere at SXSW. It examines a previously unreported video that, the filmmaker says, shows Brown did not rob a convenience store but rather was involved in an exchange of pot for cigarillos. A lawyer for the store and its employees disputes the film’s allegations.
REVIEW: ‘Stranger Fruit’ offers new theory about Ferguson shooting

“As I Walk Through the Valley”: This film looks at the varied musical influences of the Rio Grande Valley, from conjunto to country to punk to Chicano-funk, told through interviews new and old interspersed with concert footage. “A true testament to the universal language of music,” Evan Rodriguez writes.
REVIEW: ‘As I Walk Through the Valley’ shines light on South Texas music scenes

“Muppet Guys Talking – Secrets Behind the Show the Whole World Watched”: Frank Oz and four other original Muppet performers gather to talk about their time on “Sesame Street” and “The Muppet Show. ” It’s “not only a fascinating historical document but also a beautiful portrait of old friends who can still crack each other up after decades together,” Matt Shiverdecker writes.
REVIEW: ‘Muppet Guys Talking’ is like hanging out with old friends at SXSW

“The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin”: This film about the “Tales From The City” author is, in the words of Shiverdecker: “Heartwarming. Funny. Sad. Vital. This is essential gay history.”
REVIEW: ‘The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin’ is essential viewing

 

‘David Lynch’ documentary has arty appeal for fans of filmmaker

“David Lynch – The Art Life.” Contributed

David Lynch no longer remains a mystery. Well, that’s not entirely accurate, but John Nguyen’s documentary “David Lynch: The Art Life,” which screened at South by Southwest, does shed some light on what led the man behind “Twin Peaks,” “Eraserhead,” “The Elephant Man” and more to begin his filmmaking career.

Nguyen takes us through Lynch’s early adolescence and formative years and his dedicated journey to becoming a painter by adhering to a philosophy of “the art life.” It’s a Beat-aesthetic philosophy that consists of painting, drinking, coffee, cigarettes and occasionally opening some time up for women, Lynch says .

“The Art Life” essentially is a feature-length interview married with a slickly produced art show — dark and comic vignettes that resonated with Lynch contributing to his creative psyche. We also get to bear witness to some making-of footage as we get to watch Lynch smear, tug and screw various materials into his mixed-media canvases high in his Hollywood Hills studio, where most of the film takes place.

Fanchildren of Lynch will be enraptured; the casual observer of Lynch’s work might find the documentary tedious and self-indulgent. However, Lynch is one of America’s last true auteurs, so Nguyen’s rendering is par for the course in its well-composed oddity. In this age of celebrity, it is refreshing that “The Art Life” sheds more light on the man’s methods and philosophy behind his artistic processes than the man himself — though the ubiquitous presence of Lynch’s very young daughter throughout the documentary as they paint, sit and listen to music together leaves more questions than answers about the enigmatic man. Intimate, yet somewhat contrived, beautiful and frustrating, “The Art Life” is still psychedelic through all its slickness.

‘As I Walk Through the Valley’ shines light on South Texas music scenes

Catastrophe performing at Trenton Point in Edinburg, Texas, in 1999. Contributed by Donner Maldonado

Along the longest stretch of international borderland in one state exists the Rio Grande Valley, where the convergence of Spanish guitar, German accordion and African-American and Anglo-European rhythms gave birth to innovative and eclectic music scenes. “As I Walk Through the Valley,” by directors Ronnie Garza and Charlie Vela, documents the power of a do-it-yourself-attitude converging at a delta of seemingly opposite scenes, creating a unity of creativity.

The work is a study of a collective consciousness, innovators asking, “Where is my place in this microcosm?” From South Padre Island to Brownsville on over through Rio Grande City, Tejano, conjunto, country, rock ‘n’ roll, punk, pop-punk, new wave, metal and soul-Chicano-funk musics and scenes converged and coexisted in the predominately Mexican-American area.

In the oral tradition of Gillian McCain’s and Legs McNeil’s “Please Kill Me” (1996), “As I Walk Through the Valley” is told primarily through interviews new and old interspersed with live concert footage. The documentary is a true testament to the universal language of music and the universality of how things that may seem disparate are actually deeply interwoven, unable to wax or wane without one another.

Anybody who grew up supporting or involved in a fringe music scene can appreciate “As I Walk Through the Valley,” and for the uninitiated this may be the introduction you need.

SXSW: ‘Silicon Valley’ star Kumail Nanjiani regrets not eating more at Franklin Barbecue

Actor/writer/comedian/extremely funny Pakistani man Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon held a press event at Franklin Barbecue the other day. They do not hesitate when asked how the food was.

“SO GREAT!” Gordon almost yells.  It is about 10 a.m. the next day. Nanjiani and Gordon are sitting down to chat about “The Big Sick,” their new movie that just played SXSW earlier in the week.

Brisket at Franklin Barbecue AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2014

“It was unbelievable,” Nanjiani said. “I honestly was like, you know, I ate so much, I was super full, I’m gonna regret not eating more but I was so full, I couldn’t think to eat more. And today I’m like, ‘I should have eaten more.'”

“I should have gotten a second plate,” Gordon added, “How often do you get the chance to get a second plate there? But I didn’t.”

“The pies were great,” Nanjiani said. Pause. “Now I am thinking I should have eaten more pie.”

“They almost didn’t give me the white bread,” Gordon said. “I was like, ‘Excuse me, I’m Southern. My father is a beekeeper. I will need white bread, please.”

Look for a full interview with the two of them regarding  “The Big Sick” on the Austin Movie Blog in the coming days.

Weird and wacky movies we saw at SXSW

“Prevenge.” Contributed

South by Southwest screens hundreds of films. Some of them fit right in with our Keep Austin Weird aesthetic.

“Lemon”: Critic Joe Gross calls this film “an unnerving and deeply weird portrait of the artist as a middle-aged jerk.” Cringe-worthy moments include an odd Passover Seder and an awkward casting call.

REVIEW: Is ‘Lemon’ the fest’s most (intentionally) cringe-worthy movie?

“Long Strange Trip”: This documentary about the Grateful Dead is four hours long and is what critic Matthew Odam calls “a celebration of the spirit that infused the band from its outset, an effervescent exploration of the collective unconscious.” Right on, man.

INTERVIEW: ‘Long Strange Trip’ director Amir Bar-Lev wants to ‘make America Grateful again’

“Sylvio”: A gorilla who works for a debt collection agency find fame on an afternoon TV show. No, really. “There’s no question that it’s all a bit weird, but there’s a marvelous sense of wonder in every scene,” critic Matt Shiverdecker writes.

REVIEW: ‘Sylvio’ graduates from Vine to the big screen

“Prevenge”: This is the story of a pregnant woman whose fetus urges her to kill unworthy men. If that’s not wacky enough for you, Alice Lowe, who wrote and directed the film, also stars in it — and was pregnant in real life during the shoot. Critic Evan Rodriguez says the film “is blackly humorous with a dry British wit.”

REVIEW: When fetuses attack: ‘Prevenge’ is fresh entry in horror canon