Between March 10-19, Austin, Texas, was overrun with fans of tacos and movies, in that order, for the 24th annual South by Southwest Film Festival. More than 125 features were screened, including the latest fro Edgar Wright, Charlize Theron, Terrence Malick, James Franco, Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds, and Brie Larson. It’s impossible to see everything (and you shouldn’t; there were some duds), but thankfully you don’t have to — here are five SXSW films, as well as some honorable mentions, that are worth keeping an eye out for.
Honorable mentions: Lake Bodom doesn’t reinvent the horror genre, but it’s rooted in reality, and the scares are well staged… do you wish Flubber was more like Alien? Then you’ll love Life… Prevenge is sharp and violent, and an actual nightmare for pregnant women… Colossal, which probably would have made the top-five, but we already discussed it at length here (Anne Hathaway is really good; Jason Sudeikis is even better)… Noel Wells’ tragicomic Mr. Roosevelt is a more loving ode to Austin than the disastrous Song to Song.
Is it too soon to call Edgar Wright one of the greatest living filmmakers? He’s made three straight-up classics — Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World — and even his weakest movie, The World’s End, is still very good. Wright’s latest, Baby Driver, falls somewhere between “classic” and “very good.” It’s certainly his most impressive feature, technically speaking. Remember the scene from Shaun of the Dead where Shaun and his pals kill a bunch of zombies to the tune of the Queen classic, “Don’t Stop Me Now”?
That’s all of Baby Driver.
It’s an incredible achievement in matching music to motion — Baby (played by a mellow, sunglasses-wearing Ansel Elgort) is a getaway driver who listens to an endless stockpile of iPods while speeding away from the cops to drown out his tinnitus. He’s a good person who has to work with bad men and women, including Buddy (Jon Hamm at his sleaziest) and Bats (Jamie Foxx at his Jamie Foxx-iest), to pay off a long-standing debt to a crime boss, Doc (a scene-stealing Kevin Spacey). Baby’s also in love with a waitress (Lily James), and he semi-secretly records people, and there’s this whole thing with his mother…
That’s where Baby Driver slightly falls apart. It tries to be too much of everything. Wright’s been working on the idea for this movie since 1994, and it’s like he threw all his different phases over the past 23 years into the script — it’s a thriller, it’s a jukebox musical, it’s an indie-romantic comedy, it’s a high-speed caper. This should be exhausting, and there are a series of momentum-killing flashbacks, but to his immense credit, Wright mostly pulls it off, thanks to his remarkable ability to combine the grit of Grand Theft Auto with the ludicrous fun of Gone in 60 Seconds. Baby Driver is as singular a vision as the Star Wars prequels, but in a good way. (Wright’s car chases put George Lucas’ pod-race to shame.) It has to be seen to be believed.
Or more accurately, seen and heard.
The Big Sick
These days, the best romantic comedies are found on TV. And what do You’re the Worst, Catastrophe, Love, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Master of None have in common, besides not starring Katherine Heigl? They all feel real. The romance doesn’t come from mad dashes to the airport, and the jokes are based on emotional honesty. They also, for the most part, reject the idea of “happily ever after…” Just look at what happened on Jane the Virgin earlier this season.
Not that there’s anything wrong with the fairy-tale ending.
Once upon a time, Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) fell in love with Emily (Zoe Kazan). It was a forbidden romance, though, because his Pakistani family didn’t approve of his being with a white girl. Kumail and Emily break up when he refuses to tell his parents about her, but after she’s placed in a medically induced coma, he stays by her side in the hospital with her parents (Ray Romano and Holly Hunter). When she wakes up, Kumail and Emily eventually get back together, get married, and write a movie together: The Big Sick.