Another March, another installment of South by Southwest.
In a few days, Consequence of Sound will touch down in Austin, Texas, where we’ll roam the sun-scorched streets in search of the next great film. Will it be Richard Linklater’s Boyhood follow-up, Everybody Wants Some? Or will Jeff Nichols steal the festival with his sci-fi adventure, Midnight Special? Perhaps it’s one of the dozen exciting documentaries that will tell the best story? Hey, it wouldn’t be the first time.
If we’re being honest, though, we really dig a good genre film. Most of us learned to walk and talk in the horror and sci-fi aisles of our local video stores, clutching on to cult titles by John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, Wes Craven, Ridley Scott, and James Cameron. We spent our Octobers roaming around the streets of Haddonfield and one too many midnights silently screaming in space. Decades later, little has changed.
Because of this, we’ll always look forward to South by Southwest. Out of all the major film festivals, it’s the one that capitalizes on those feelings best, and this year’s lineup is no exception. Ti West delivers his first Western with In a Valley of Violence, the one and only James Caan returns to thrill in The Waiting, and Fede Alvarez apparently has something wicked coming our way. How we’ll sleep is beyond us.
Nevertheless, our schedules are ready as they’ll ever be, and starting this Friday, we’ll be delivering our nonstop daily coverage of the 2016 South by Southwest Film Festival. In the meantime, though, we’ve pieced together the 10 films that we’re particularly fond of ahead of the starting line. These are the films that we’ve inked into our calendars, and if we’re lucky, they’ll all be bona fide popcorn classics.
Fingers crossed for some five-baggers.
Everybody Wants Some
The latest from Richard Linklater, Hollywood’s preeminent romantic jock philosopher, Everybody Wants Some chronicles a group of ‘80s college baseball players as they bond, experiment, and figure out how to live without supervision. A “spiritual sequel” to his 1993 sophomore effort, Dazed and Confused, the movie promises another unfiltered, non-judgmental look at rebelliousness, complete with a fresh-faced ensemble and a killer soundtrack that runs the gamut from punk to disco to that good ‘ol rock n’ roll. This sort of freewheeling, unfocused narrative is right in Linklater’s wheelhouse, and 2014’s Boyhood showed he still knows how to tie together any number of disparate elements into a coherent, moving narrative. Fingers crossed for a Rory Cochrane cameo. –Randall Colburn
Four years later, writer and director Jeff Nichols returns with a sci-fi vehicle running on a little Carpenter and Spielberg. (Think Starman and E.T., respectively.) Midnight Special follows a troubled father (the inimitable Michael Shannon) on the run with his gifted son, Alton (Jaeden Lieberher), who possesses special powers of, let’s just say, “the third kind.” These talents draw the ire of annoying religious extremists and local law enforcement, which, naturally, turn the proverbial heads of the all-encompassing Federal Government. Nichols is clearly shaking up some genres here, and we’re willing to sit back with some popcorn and smile. Even better, Shannon’s coming off an incredible year, and he’s surrounded by a mouthwatering cast of Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, and Adam Driver. If that doesn’t scream “BUZZ,” then you’re just light years away, man. –Michael Roffman
In a Valley of Violence
When horror auteur Ti West says his latest film is an unapologetic Western, we have every reason to believe him, especially when considering the plot: a drifter (Ethan Hawke) who gets caught up in an irreversible web of revenge while passing through a mining town. But even with such a conventional narrative, West’s slow-burn weirdness indicates that his take on the weathered genre will likely be different than the typical shit-kicking fare, hopefully more akin to something like Dead Man or last year’s stunningly clinical Bone Tomahawk. Even an unapologetic Western can be scary. –Dan Caffrey
Don’t Think Twice
It’s been awhile since we’ve truly been Birbiglia’d. The benevolent comic and This American Life favorite hasn’t helmed a picture since 2012’s oft-underrated dramedy Sleepwalk with Me. His somnambulant meditation on marriage and adulthood wound up jolting critics and audiences alike, winning “Festival Favorite” at South by Southwest and “Best of Next” at Sundance. As such, we’ve all been napping patiently for his proper follow-up, and now it’s time to wake up with Don’t Think Twice. Once again, Birbiglia sets a story in and around the comedy scene, only this time he’s following a New York improv troupe on the edge of stardom. Slowly, the all-star cast — ahem, Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Kate Micucci, Tami Sagher, Chris Gethard, and Birbs himself — arrive at that sobering moment where they realize they all won’t make it. Should be depressingly hilarious, like all the best comedies. –Michael Roffman
It’s not just a clever name. Teenage Cocktail sounds every bit as scandalous as its name implies. In his first solo outing, director and co-writer John Carchietta tells the story of two teenagers who dive into webcam modeling to fund their split from small-town dreariness. Bad things happen, however, and we’re intrigued to see if it’s of the Spring Breakers variety or something altogether more devious. A supporting cast of Pat Healy, AJ Bowen, and Joshua Leonard – all top-notch character actors – heightens the promise of this tiny indie that much more. –Randall Colburn