SXSW #1 PREDATORS Preview, CHERRY

Posted in Uncategorized by johnwildman on April 6, 2010

SXSW #1

Just got into Austin after doing a caravan thing from Dallas with Actress/Producer Farah White and after a brief pit stop at a female writer/director buddy (whose name I can’t tell you because she asked me not to) including a Patron Tequila send me off, we headed to the convention center to get our film festival badges.

The badge pick up process is about as streamlined as these things can be and after a quick film fest hug with ROCK SLYDE producer Milan Chakribarti, someone sends me to “Help Girl #2” and quick as that I have my pass complete with the awkward fish eye lens picture of me from their insta-cam last year. Heinous and unfortunate. Farah catches up with me and asks, “Why do they always have to shoot up your nose?”

Why indeed.

More film fest hit and runs continue as we make our way to the line that awaits us at the KICK-ASS premiere. Various journalist and distributor friends do passing hand shakes, yelling backwards which party they’ll be at later so we can shake hands standing still or shout at each other frontwards while loud music blares. This is the first in what will be a continuous series of improvisations and adjustments at South by Southwest since I was supposed to see CHERRY since I’m scheduled to interview the director and star tomorrow. But Austin traffic has forced me to adjust on the fly.

Some guy hands me a “Why Vegan?” pamphlet. I start to leaf through it as I’m walking and see that it’s full of sad animal pictures that belong in one of those Sarah MacLachlan commercials. Except these are animals you like to eat. So I’m conflicted. I mean, they’re sad AND tasty.

We’ve almost found our writer/director pal who has been holding a place in line, but first it’s another film fest hug. This time with IMDB Amazon Film Festival Bon Vivant Christian Gaines. He’s pretty much why I’m in this world now, so the dude deserves a hug for that alone. Once in line, Farah and I are introduced to everyone on either side of us in the line as well. The one which has seemed to join our little viewing party is a cute documentary director from L.A. who has made a film about surfing Israelis. Naturally, I give her my card and tell her to get in touch regarding submitting the film to the Feel Good Film Festival because, let’s face it – surfing Israelis? Just the idea of that makes me smile for some reason.

Crap, KICK-ASS is full.

And Christian Gaines is pissed. It’s the second screening he wasn’t able to get into. That’s not a good sign.

But, we do finally get in. To a party, that is. A cover band is doing a nice “Groove in the Heart” and the lead singer’s mirror ball fabric jump suit is worth the price of admission. Which was free. And so was my drink. Or two. And suddenly, SXSW rallies a bit. According to the keyboardist there was really bad compression on the peaks. He’s upset. But no one noticed. They’re distracted by Mirror Ball Chick, free drinks and tasty chicken skewers, and mini-quesadillas. Oh, and the fact they actually got into something.

We grab a table with a guy doing a panel tomorrow on Neural Marketing. I’m gonna guess this place is rife with raw data. Anyway, the more he talks, the more I’m getting flashes of MINORITY REPORT in front of my face. Then, after a wardrobe adjustment, Farah says, “You can totally get away with bra straps at SXSW.”  And then she’s showing off the guns and our writer/director pal is working an orange boa she was given as we entered. And I’m thinking, “This guy had better start taking notes for that whole neural marketing thing he thinks he’s on top of.”

Our writer/director bud says she’s keeping a running tally of the men she’s run into this evening that have been on her payroll. And then L.A. director girl gives us this nugget: She just overheard someone say, “The taxidermist said last night I looked really sexy.”

Okay, time to leave that party.

So, we split up to divide and conquer. The ladies go off to check out a “Pasteries and Pasties” party and I volunteer to take one for the home team by getting in line an hour and a half early to guarantee we get into the PREDATORS preview thing.

Farah joins me and pulls me out of line because we have a friend at FOX that can maybe get me to Robert Rodriguez, who I’m on a mission to convince to come to the DALLAS International Film Festival in April. This SXSW I have a few things on the plate. We meet with her, she’s working on getting word to him, but you know, vague and not helping all that much stuff. As Farah and I make our way back to our spot which was being held by a nice lady we run into journalist friends closer to the front of line and they invite us into the warm embrace of “closer to getting in”. Which is a weasel festival move – given. But I’m also O for two tonight. Then they say, they have spots held for them since they are covering and maybe I can get in that way and Farah tells me to go with them like I’m leaving with the women and children.

Five minutes later and I’m back. No dice with FOX. I’m not on the list. And “it’s a very specific list.” Now, the people behind us are threatening to call us out to the volunteers. ‘Cause I’m film festival gangsta like that.

But I bail on that thought as I realize the cute girl with the accent that was standing right behind us and is now leaving is Electra Avellan, Rodriguez’ niece and one of the crazy babysitter twins from PLANET TERROR who I meant to reach out to for a film I’m involved in. Had no idea it was her. She decided to leave because after waiting in line for an hour and twenty minutes, that last ten was about to kill her. So as I’m wondering what the hell she was standing in line for, I run after her like Richard Gere after David Keith in AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN and give her my business card before she hangs herself over that townie. Wait. I’m mixing things up a little. She actually just rides off in one of those bicycle taxi things. She’ll be fine, I’m sure.

And success! We get into the theatre. And sit down, as it turns out, between the guy who made the preview trailer we’re about to see – which is funny and cool, and film festival gadfly Chris Gore who immediately gets wrapped up in a “How the hell do I know you?” banter game with Farah.

So Robert Rodriguez comes out to start the show. He sets up and introduces the trailer for the movie. Adrien Brody, Laurence Fishburne, Alice Braga, Danny Trejo, Walton Goggins are the lucky participants in a THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME winner take-all in a jungle on a Predator planet far far away. And this will shock you, the odds aren’t in their favor.

Fun trailer. Rodriguez and Nimrod Antal, the director – and Greg Nicotero SFX monster man top dog all look to have worked hard to make us all forget about those AVP scrums. As slide after slide of artist renderings of various Predators and Predators 2.0 and girl Predators and flying Predators and dog Predators and well, it’s like they had a contest in the office to turn every damn thing that breathed into a Predator. And that will be the next dumbass thing for facebook: replacing “redo yourself as a Mad Men cartoon” or “What would you look like as an AVATAR Na’vi?” thing. Post your Predator-self photo now!

Where was I? Oh, so Nicotero reveals an Original Recipe Predator head and he and Antal start playing with their mobile control units to make the mouth move, and fanboys sitting behind me drool audibly. It’s fun – gotta give them that. And then, after a second trailer, which I’m convinced was actually the first one just re-played, we finally see an actual scene which is an introduction to Fishburne’s character. And, again – it’s fun popcorn stuff. Good popcorn.

And everyone is praising everyone and it was great to work with everyone with an emphasis of “we really wanted to get this thing right.” Antal returns frequently to the idea of focusing on the hunting methods and skills and playing and exploring with those themes and ideas. And that’s what gives me faith that this will deliver beyond what we’ve seen with the show-and-tell here. There’s some ideas cooking there and that is a relief.

As we leave we get some lovely parting gifts: t-shirt, poster, Predator laser pointer, My wife will be happy.

Afterward, we exit the theatre into a typically insane scene on 6th street. A lot of people having a party and you are invited. Whoever you are. Just start drinking, get something that flashes some kind of LED rainbow colors and keep going until you collapse, I guess. We make our way into the Opening Night party and while milling about find out that Rodriguez is there. So that’s where we go – so I can make the pitch for Dallas. I find him hanging out with Jason Reitman in the afterglow of the Predators power point presentation and introduce myself and let him know how much the DALLAS IFF would love to have him there. He says, “Maybe. It’s close.” Fair enough. And I’m out. That’s all you can do. My work there is done.

So, around 1:30AM I get back to the house I’m sofa surfing at to watch a screener so I can actually say I saw a movie tonight before I pass out…

CHERRY

Written and directed by Jeffrey Fine, CHERRY is a classic coming-of-age story of a young man during his freshman year at an Ivy League school. He’s a natural artist being steered without any hope for debate toward an engineering degree by an overbearing mom. And he also happens to be your standard issue virgin. It’s like cherry, upon cherry, upon…

And I say classic because there is such a timeless romantic sheen over the film that kept me wondering if it actually had meant to be a kind of period thing. That happened to include women with piercings. But no – contemporary and all by design. And nicely by design, I have to say.

Our lead character, ‘Aaron’ (played by Kyle Gallner) quickly falls into a friendship and two-way crush-ship with both a single mom (Laura Allen) and her 14 year-old daughter (Brittany Robertson). And soon you stop comparing CHERRY to SUMMER OF ’42 as Fine places much more emphasis on the emotional crushes forming as opposed to the physical ones.

The story plays out as both warmly familiar and respects the youthful discovery process without resorting to wide-eyed epiphanies. I’m sure no one would be shocked by the result of Aaron’s struggle of the artistic/true to yourself tract versus the engineering/ your future’s security according to your mom tract, let alone how things play out with the mother and daughter. But it is wisely nuanced and a pleasure view across the board.

And now I can go to sleep….

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