South by Southwest (SXSW) 2019 Days 2-4: Some Stuff I Saw

I’ve seen some good stuff at SXSW 2019. Not as much as I wanted, because I’ve been under the weather, quite possibly germs from one of the many people I scanned into sessions last week. Or allergies compounded by trying to do too much and not sleeping enough, a common problem for A Dude who has too much to do and not enough hours in which to do them. Although I’ve biked downtown and in between a few venues, mostly I’ve walked alot. As in 10,000-12,000 steps per day, which is alot for me. So here are some words and pictures for you. For official SXSW photos, see this link.

Funny Comedy Jokes

I’ve seen a comedy show since Saturday each night, which includes:

  • Roast Battle
  • An Evening with Todd Glass
  • Standup Downtown

The first event is what it sounds like, a lot of insults traded back and forth. This had a host, a hype crew, a DJ, judges and several pairs of contestants. Not only was this real, in your face talk, there were no holds barred when it comes to not being jerks of any -ism you can think of. I’ve long maintained that stand-up comedy is the last bastion of free speech in America. So while not for the meek or weak of heart, it does remind us that free speech is not free. I enjoyed this and laughed at several taboo things.

Todd Glass is an established comedian who had a very meta show. He’d tell a joke and then talk about how a joke wasn’t working. He’d comment on people leaving and going. And there’s much more to it. I was a little tired so didn’t catch it all. He had a three-piece orchestra with whom he traded barbs at times, and they had a good time. I’d like to see his Netflix special; I hope he’s much better after working up his material more.

The Stand-Ups were all very, very funny in their own way. I can’t talk about it because it’s the freakin’g cold weather. Not alot to say since I don’t remember much, but you do have to take care of business first.

Films, Movies, Talkies

I’ve also seen a motion picture every evening:

  • Texas Shorts Program*
  • The Peanut Butter Falcon
  • Aurora
  • Adopt-a-Highway

Each of these films had something which I can only describe as humanistic about them. The short films included some that were animated – one about a girl fleeing Mexico to find her mother in the US while the other was about consensual bondage, domination and submission. Both worked well, surprisingly. Other shorts included: one about a Latina girl dealing with her grandfather’s death, an estranged friend, and gum in her hair; an Ethiopian woman on her last day at a hair salon; a transgender boy who was forced by the state to wrestle with girls (done as part of ESPN’s 30 by 30); a quick one about a guy trying to off himself, but who is not able to; and a father who asks his son to help him commit suicide. Both of them were amusing as well.

*For all the titles and more about the shorts, see this link.

Zach and Shia from The Peanut Butter Falcon

The Peanut Butter Falcon is a buddy picture with Zach Gottshagen and Shia LaBoeuf. But it’s much more than that, because it’s star and the character he plays both happen to have Down’s Syndrome. I found this to be very heartwarming, poignant, hilarious and just pretty to watch. I won’t say anything about the plot, but I laughed, I cried, and had all the feels about it. LaBoeuf was passionate and refreshingly candid in his remarks and then appropriately subdued and polite when it wasn’t his turn. Gracious even. Dakota Johnson has a nice role in it as well. My favorite so far and doubt it’ll be moved from top spot of the festival, it was that good.

Aurora is a Finnish film that I saw because I had met a Finnish woman earlier in the day at the Expo, and since I didn’t want to mess with the long lines and this seemed different, I gave it a whirl. The plot involves a drunken lead who meets an Iranian immigrant trying to get asylum for himself and his daughter. Funny, at times pathetic, and always moving, the editing and soundtrack got a little out of hand for me. Otherwise, I enjoyed hearing the sounds and seeing the sights of another culture. And met more Finns and Iranians as well.

Not only were most of these films world premieres, in all cases the stars and/or director or producers were in attendance afterward for Question and Answer sessions. This is the cool part of the festivals (yes, that’s plural – comedy, film, interactive and music): seeing and hearing people involved with the movie talking about it live. I appreciated being in the room with Ethan Hawke, for example, who is a great actor just happened to be nominated (correction: ignored) for an Academy Award. Some of these films might not make it into widespread distribution, but some may. I hope they all do.

Ethan talking about the process of choosing a film based on beauty

In Adopt-a-Highway, Hawke’s character Russ is just getting out of prison and dealing with a brand new world. It’s a slight film in some ways, under 90 minutes, and mostly a character study, but it’s a well-done one. A surprising plot point near the beginning sets him on a path that collides with his past and involves his future in ways that are unbeknownst to him. A fearful, timid man, damaged by so many years in jail, Hawke portrays him as a real person, not a caricature. Little looks and movements don’t seem contrived, just well studied and executed. You know it’s still him, but you also forget and feel for the fictional guy and root him on. Pretty wonderful.

Other Stuff

The other stuff I saw was too numerous to be named, but includes:

  • The Wellness and Job Expos, where you get free samples and to meet and network with people. I did both.
  • Horatio Sanz, former Saturday Night Live charactor, who was nice and his assistant asked if I wanted a picture;
  • Doug Benson, comedian and famous smoker who wore a scowl and wasn’t photo-ready.
  • More walking around looking at people. Talking but mostly listening to what they would like to see and do.

Well, that’s all until the next installment!

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