They day started rainy, so I opted for breakfast indoors. I headed down 2nd Street to Jo’s – one of two such establishments in Austin known for their great coffee and delicious fare. I began my day with a chai tea (even I needed caffeine to stay upright today), and their short stack of pancakes. Word to the wise, their short stack is a) a delicious, fluffy piece of paradise, and b) not so much a “stack” as it is a single pancake the size of the hubcap on a 1956 Buick. Bliss! They also had this great fruited butter that I’m pretty sure I could have eaten all on its own. But after my delicious breakfast, it was all business! I had a big slate of movies I wanted to see that day & I needed to get cracking! Here’s what I had on tap that day:
Brooklyn Castle – this adorable and moving documentary about kids on an inner city chess team was one of the best things I saw at SXSW. And I’m not the only one who thought so. It was just recently announced that BC earned the Audience Award for Narrative Documentary – a major achievement for a film that, last I knew still didn’t have a distributor. But it looks like they’ll have a major fairy godmother in the form of Scott Rudin. More on that in a full review later.
Tchoupitoulas – this ended up being my first real disappointment of SXSW. To be fair to the movie, I wasn’t there for the right reasons. I’ll admit I was intrigued by the film, a documentary, described as follows:
Tchoupitoulas is a story of the New Orleans night. It is a visually exhilarating and aurally immersive record of one night in the many lives of a thriving nocturnal populace. Three young boys act as our wide-eyed conduits to a parade of entertainers and revelers as they dance through the lamp lit streets and doorways of the Crescent City. From dusk to dawn, from Rampart to the river, we explore the lives and locales of one of the world's most unique cities. In moments, vignettes, performances, and exchanges, Tchoupitoulas is a kaleidoscopic odyssey into another side of New Orleans.
And while the film did have stream of consciousness, dreamlike quality that was interesting, I just wasn’t captivated by the story. It didn’t do much for me. But as I say I don’t really want to either critique or criticize the movie because my presence there was a bit strategic. See the thing is, at SXSW you have to fight to get your way into some of these screenings. Not because the people are inhospitable, by any means, but because a couple of the venues – both at the sparklingly new and luxurious Violet Crown theater – are miniscule. The place has two screens, one room holding 50 occupants, the other 40. That’s fine and intimate on a regular basis, but when you use a venue like that for a film festival where a certain, unspecified block of tickets goes to friends of the movie makers (as should be!), then 10% get pre-distributed to people who stand in a line starting at 9am to get in, and then the next group to people who arrive at least one hour prior to the start time, it gets pretty tricky to get a seat there. So, I hate to say it, but a major part of my attendance at Tchoupitoulas was that I wanted to see another feature, frankiego boom (lack of capitalization intentional), at the same venue directly afterwards. Deplorable, I know, and I hope that I didn’t keep anyone out of Tchoupitoulas that would have enjoyed it more than I. But there it is, I did it. And probably as karmic punishment, I didn’t even get into fgb after all that.
Even though this proved to be my first big heartache of SXSW, it was pretty hard to be bummed when I stepped outside into a beautiful burst of sunshine, as if high summer had arrived while I was in a cramped, dark theater. Therefore, rather than sulk, I decided to grab a bit of local lunch to plot out my next move. That’s one of the big bummers of SXSW, and I’m guessing most every film festival, a missed connection over a matter of minutes can lead to a gaping hole in your schedule that can last 2-3 hours. But I consoled myself with some tasty street food from Bacone. This vendor was parked outside of the Convention Center entrance at Trinity and 4th, and I was immediately drawn to their booth by the amazing savor/sweet smell permeating about a 15-foot radius. Their menu, shown here had all kinds of culinary concoctions served up in savory, portable waffle cones. Personally I decided to go with the Captain: “Cap’n Crunch ® and cous cous breaded chicken strips on a jicama slaw in a bacon waffle cone and topped with green chili ranch.” Seriously, are you going to tell me that you would have passed up that? Liar. Regrettably, I don’t have a picture of the beautiful, delicious final product because once I got that waffle cone in my hand I started chowing down like it was my motherflippin’ job. But trust me, it was pretty.
Thus sustained and back on track, I decided to head in the direction of a film I thought I would have had to have crossed off my viewing list, but could put back into my schedule thanks to the insane popularity and minimal venue space for frankie go boom. And that was an off-beat, strange, black comedy called Black Pond. It was indeed a bizarre journey of a film with a wide range of emotions and impressions as the film progressed. As it ended up I liked it, and will discuss it in full later, but even now I still find the experience dizzying and my thoughts about it conflicted. But I don’t necessarily think that is a bad thing.
I ended the evening with a much anticipated viewing of the new Patton Oswalt movie, Nature Calls. Now as you may recall, I was giddy with excitement for this movie, and I was seriously stressing about getting it and other panel discussions into my schedule. The drama of getting to the screening was heightened by the fact that this showing was held at one of the festivals “satellite” locations; translation: BFE!!! Thank the gods for satellite navigation, because I never would have found the place without it. In fact I nearly didn’t find it with satnav. The theater (yet another beautiful and seemingly quite new branch of the Alamo Drafthouse enterprise) was way off the road and impossible to see until you are inadvertently getting back on the freeway and going past it. I never claimed to have a sense of direction. Anyway, once there and safely ensconced in my seat, like a kid on Christmas morning just waiting to rip into a big glittery present, the movie began. And to be quite honest…well…it blew. I was so devastated, but it really was vastly unpleasant and barely funny at all. It was a bitter disappointment. Patton, sweet pea, this isn't how you follow up a role that should have gotten you an Oscar nomination. You're just giving them more ammo to overlook you again later. The best parts were the exchanges between supporting characters Rob Riggle and the late Patrice O’Neal, and the best of all were the parts that felt like Riggle was improvising. Johnny Knoxville’s character was vile in a way that wasn’t even funny, and there is no way a character like Maura Tierney’s would have ever married that a-hole. This is precisely the kind of dilemma that The Babymakers avoids.