On Friday, March 12, 2010, the SXSW Film Festival gets underway for its 24th year, and like every year I can remember, Film Threat will be on-site and representing the love of independent film… and love of barbecue… and love of beer… love of the Alamo Drafthouse… lots of love…

Rolling around Austin, Texas in a film-induced haze will be none other than myself, Film Threat owner/publisher Mark Bell, and contributing editor Don Lewis. While my role is a simple one: watch movies, interview filmmakers, catch a panel or two and stay relatively coherent for the 5 days I’ll be there, Don has a more official capacity as a SXSW Juror. What does that mean? Means some filmmaker is going to win an award, and Don Lewis will have something to do with it. Or, conversely, lots of filmmakers aren’t going to win an award, and Don Lewis will have something to do with it. So, you decide whether to hug or trip Don when you see him. I mean, I can go either way, depending on the time of day.

I’m looking forward to SXSW, especially since I missed 2009’s fest due to an extreme case of livinginNewZealand, a condition that affected both me and my wife. Going back to Austin (Austin… Austin…), I can’t wait to see how the Alama Drafthouse (the Greatest Movie Theater in the World; how’s that for hyperbole in film journalism?) has evolved (because it always does), and really looking forward to actually spending time at the Alamo South Lamar, a theater I’ve never frequented due to my inability to walk there (We have shuttles now! YES!). Plus, you know, have to swing by Ironworks for some colon-cleansing goodness.

What flicks am I excited for? I’ll give you my top ten. Bear in mind that I haven’t seen these films, just really want to, and they could wind up outside my top ten when the festival ends. Right now, though, they’ve got the top spots on sheer potential for greatness:

“American: The Bill Hicks Story”
Come on, who doesn’t want to see a documentary about Bill Hicks, if for no other reason than to hear his material again? I’m a sucker for docs about artists that push the envelope, are called “visionaries,” etc, and since most of those docs seem to focus on musicians, I’m looking forward to finding out how the format works when a comedian is involved.

“Bear Nation”
I’m not pretty. I’ve got some extra weight (okay, lots of extra weight) and, other than the shaved head, I’m routinely a very, hairy person. How I managed to trick a woman into marrying me, I’ll never know (but I did, so why question it). There is one social community around, however, where I’m among the most attractive, and that’s the homosexual “bear” community. And you know what, who doesn’t like to be admired and desired, right? Anyway, this doc is the follow-up to ex-Film Threat writer Malcolm Ingram’s “small town gay bar,” and it focuses on the one group I’d like to know more about, because they think I’m pretty. I mean, what’s THAT all about? I’m hoping “Bear Nation” lets me know.

“Jimmy Tupper VS. The Goatman of Bowie”
This flick just looks ridiculous and fun, the tale of a loser who maybe encounters an urban legend in the woods, and what happens next (hilarity ensues!?!). The only way you could get me to see this sooner is if you called it “Tastykakes vs. The New Jersey Devil,” because that’s one of my favorite things vs. my favorite urban legend.

“Like a Pascha”
Another doc, but this one centers on a brothel in Germany. I’ve never been in a brothel. Never been to Germany. This one pimps itself (no pun intended) by questioning the role sex has in our lives, and I’m all for the philosophical discourse on the value of sex and prostitution… and I’m curious about brothels in Germany.

From German brothels to fantasy worlds, “Marwencol” is a documentary about a man who was beaten into a coma by five men outside a bar, and then subsequently built a 1/6th scale of World War II-era town, named Marwencol, in his backyard. This falls in the category of the type of story / information you’d never be able to find outside of a film festival, so you better check it out when you get the chance. And, I won’t lie, I once worked with the director on a film (he was editor, I was post-production supervisor) and I’m curious as to what he was able to put together.

“The People vs. George Lucas”
I love and hate George Lucas. I love him because he created “Star Wars,” and that lead to me being married by Darth Vader in Vegas. I hate him because he made the prequels, and they actually made me second-guess getting married by Darth Vader in Vegas. You’d think my wife would make me second-guess it, but she did marry me so her decision-making is ultimately suspect. Anyway, as sick as I am of hearing people bitch about George Lucas (myself included), there hasn’t been a documentary, that I know of, that finally assembles everything together and gets at the heart of the matter, so I want to check this out.

“Phillip the Fossil”
Film Threat distributed Garth Donovan’s film “Everyone’s Got One” on our Film Threat DVD line, so I’ve been aware of the “Phillip the Fossil” story for a while (I think a trailer was even included on the DVD as an extra). I’m interested in seeing what Garth has put together in his “EGO” follow-up, which appears to be about an aging cool guy confronted with the steady, rapid descent away from his glory days (and how doesn’t miss their glory days? ME. I never had any).

Good God, another f*****g documentary!?! Eh, this one is more my own morbid curiosity about that television trainwreck “Saturday Night Live.” I know, it’s not always a trainwreck, and that’s why I wanted to see this film, directed by actor James Franco, to find out what really goes in to making an episode of the show, and see if I can’t figure out how the show can hit so consistently in the late ’70s and early ’90s, and miss so severely every other year of its existence.

“Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields”
Remember what I was saying about documentaries about artists who push boundaries, and how they’re normally about musicians? Yeah? Well, this looks to be one of those types of documentaries. That said, I really enjoy Stephin Merritt’s music, so I’m there. I mean, SXSW has a whole section for music-related documentaries, how can I not have one represented on the list?

“Trash Humpers”
This film has the most potential for greatness and also the most potential to suck horrendous a*s, because I have yet to experience a Harmony Korine-involved film that I either didn’t love or hate; no middle ground. With a director like Korine and a title like “Trash Humpers,” how could I miss it? Simple: I can’t.

Hmmmm… seven out of ten spots are filled with documentaries. I think that says something about me…

Of course, SXSW isn’t just about the flicks; there’s also an Interactive section going on at the same time as the Film program, and a number of panels that intersect both. Now, there are a number of panels I’m interested in attending, but since I’m also interested in seeing so many films, I don’t know if I’ll actually get to enjoy any of them. That said, here’s five you might find me at:

Hyperbole in Film Criticism – AMAZING! GENIUS!
Why Keep Blogging? – I have no idea.
Process Journalism – This panel might make me cry.
Fans, Friends and Followers – Seriously, how can you tell them apart? I’d like to have some someday.
How to Save Journalism – I HOPE it involves tights and a cape!

There’s more, but I could go on all night (and methinks I already have). If you’re in Austin for SXSW, say “hello” if you see me. I’ll be the fat, bearded guy at the “Bear Nation” screening 😉

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