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Harry has his best 1st Day at SXSW Ever! THE SQUARE, THE SNAKE & ONG BAK 2!!! It Doesn't Get Much Better!

Hey folks, Harry here... It's 3:26am... I'm finally sitting down at my computer after an exhilarating day at SXSW 2009. To say I'm charged right now doesn't cut it. I'm on fucking fire. My brain is racing, I have a shit eating grin on my face and there's a part of me that wants to just stay home from here on out because I refuse to believe it can possibly fucking get an ounce better than the euphoric rush that ended this evening with ONG BAK 2. But I shouldn't get ahead of myself. The purpose of this article is to give you an inkling of what it was like to be me, this day - as I experience the best SXSW opening day ever. There's many things that contribute to that. The first is that I was able to actually see 3 FILMS on my first day at SXSW, which I haven't been able to do since before the creation of the TEXAS FILMMAKER'S HALL OF FAME, which for the very first time ever was moved to the day before SXSW begins! Thank God, Louis Black, Rebecca Campbell and Janet Pierson for this blessing.

Photo: Janet Pierson at The Alamo Drafthouse South - Opening night of SXSW 2009
Speaking of Janet Pierson - I have to say, "WELL DONE!" Janet Pierson is the head of SXSW's Film Programming, taking over the absolute unthinkable travesty that befell Austin when the anointed Adonis of the Hip & the Cool... Matt Dentler left Austin for the skyscrapers and filthy lucre of New York. I remember just a few months ago, Janet was sitting at the couch over my shoulder here and we were talking about the general concepts of programming a festival. She was nervous and almost overwhelmed by the enormity of the void she was being asked to fill, but she's really come through brilliantly so far! So let's get going with the day. No SXSW can get going without the joys of registration & bag pick up! Almost instantly upon entering the Austin Convention Center - I began being asked if I'd seen me on the bag yet? About 5 people said this to me. By the time that I reached the 4th floor... I began to believe it. Especially when Charlie Sotello showed me this:

A certain amount of blood drained from my face - as I began to imagine 100s of brief conversations that begin with "Can you sign my bag," which is just a scary phrase to think about. Luckily - I've only signed 3 bags so far, taken a few photos with it and had about 20 conversations about it. So officially, "Yes, I know I am on the bag." Heh. After registration I had lunch with the director of I LOVE YOU, MAN - a very sweet fella named John Hamburg. I've spoken to him before, back in December in advance of his film playing at BUTT-NUMB-A-THON 10. This time his film was opening SXSW 2009 - and he came with Paul Rudd, Jason Segel & Jon Favreau!!! Pretty damn awesome guests for the Opening film. I hope someone that was there writes in to share that experience. I'm envious that I wasn't there, kinda. (as you'll see later) This brings me to my schedule of films for Day 1. At lunch, John asked me if I was coming to the screening. I genuinely wanted to. Sure, I'd seen the film before - but that was at like 2 or 3am at BNAT. Seeing it fresh with a 1200 strong audience of jazzed as hell film geeks... Well, there's no energy quite like that! (or is there?) At the time, I told John that I was attending THE 2 BOBS premiere at the Austin Convention Center, but as I drove away from lunch - I was in flux. I haven't seen Favreau since the end of our involvement in John Carter and it sure would be nice to catch up with him at the Opening Party after the screening of I LOVE YOU, MAN. And my brain started tossing around business thoughts and for about 45 minutes - I was going to I LOVE YOU, MAN and the Opening Party. However, by the time I reached home... the Film Geek in me had won. I told Father Geek to just drop me at ALAMO DRAFTHOUSE SOUTH... I'd see some feature called SPIDER, then THE SNAKE and end with ONG BAK 2. At least, that's what my brain thought. As I arrived at ALAMO SOUTH - there were two lines. One for something called STRONGMAN and another for something called THE SQUARE. I re-examined my program and saw that SPIDER was a short playing before the feature called THE SQUARE. I knew nothing about it. I didn't know the genre, the country of origin, was it a narrative or a documentary... Literally clueless. As I entered the theater I didn't see any of the usual suspects, but as I was going down the hallway, I heard the sleep-inducing voice of Moriarty crooning, "HarrRRrrRRrryYyyyY!" behind me - to find Quint and Kraken behind him. As usual. I'm first - and they're just riding my coattails. Turns out Quint has seen the film. And he's interviewed director Nash Edgerton earlier in the day. I also learn that Nash is some kind of master of short films, was apparently a stunt double for Obi Wan in REVENGE OF THE SITH and Quint liked the movie so much he was giving it a second viewing. I still didn't know genre, subject matter or anything else. But I was getting excited. I left for a quick pre-film bathroom run - and upon returning, I met Nash Edgerton, whom I had just learnt so much about. Someone with him asks me if I'd seen SPIDER, the short film before this - but I tell Nash and her that I'm not sure. I've seen a lot of things called SPIDER - I couldn't be sure and didn't want to say until I knew for sure. One thing was sure, it felt like Nash was a bit nervous. After a brief unrevealing chat, Nash went up to intro his film.

He told the audience that he attached SPIDER to the head of the film, so we would all get where his sick twisted mind was coming from. Then SPIDER played:

OH! That SPIDER! Yeah, I remember that! I'd seen it at least half a dozen times back when it first made the YouTube rounds! Cool - wonder what a feature narrative from this guy will be like! THE SQUARE This is a fantastic Film Noir taut Suspense flick. It isn't set back in the 40s or 50s. What it does is it takes aspects of the Noir genre and applies it to this awesome Australian bit of badassery! My instant impression as the lights came up afterwards as the final end credits rolled was to grab my phone and post on my FACEBOOK status line, "Harry just saw the best goddamn film noir since BODY HEAT!" That was where my brain was after being hit smack upside the head with this brilliant little film. First thing you need to know is this. This isn't a style over substance bit of Noir. In fact, I think a lot of people would miss the noir beats, BUT it is Film Noir Aussie style. You have your Femme Fatales, your lugs, the backstabbing and morally corrupt shadings. All ill deads will be punished and there's a definite possibility of inky black fucked up take the air out of your lungs WOW kinda endings. As its anti-hero we have David Roberts playing "Ray". You've seen David Roberts before in flicks like the last two Matrix flicks, Ghost Rider and Fool's Gold. But here he is in a truly outstanding first time feature filmmaker's debut! He plays a married man that runs a construction site. He's cheating on his wife with a younger, hotter lady named Carla, played wonderfully by the beautiful Claire Van Der Boom. She's tired of being the "other woman" - she's a little afraid of her husband, who is up to seemingly shady dealings. She's discovered a dufflebag in the attic just filled up with seemingly untold thousands or perhaps millions of whatever the Aussie money is called. She wants Ray to tear up the place - take the money and the two of them to disappear together. Ray is not wanting to get his hands dirty, and jokes that the only way that that kinda money disappears is if the place burns down. Carla is smitten with the idea, he is not. But her cold shoulder warms him to the notion. Poor guys in these types of movies just have no faith in scoring another hot chick. What saps! Anyways - he knows of someone that can do real good arson work - and during a Christmas celebration that has the entire town turned out - and the fire department - everything gets set in motion and... well... what happens in these kinds of stories. It gets fucked up real fast. There's a bit about this film that reminds me of a little known Noir that I love starring Mickey Rooney called QUICKSAND! Where Mickey does something seemingly small and harmless and reparable - but WRONG - and a slippery slope of increasingly horrifying consequences just start falling upon him. It's a standard in these stories. Just ask Fred MacMurray or John Garfield or Robert Mitchum. Something seemingly easy and quick turns into the sort of situation that forever blows the light of life from your eyes forever. The entire last hour of the film is a tightening web of suspense and incredibly fucked up situations... just wait till you hear a baby cry! SHIT BALLS ON MY EYELASHES! My sphincter squeezed out 5 diamonds! Pretty high grade at that! Now for the bad news. As of this juncture, THE SQUARE does not have a U.S. Distributor. HOWEVER - I've heard that we'll be hearing a change in that status shortly - and hopefully this absolute jewel will shine before your very own set of peepers! Sadly, this film is only playing once at SXSW this year. I don't know what sort of guiding spirit led me to this brilliant debut film, but I'd like to just say... I felt a disturbance in the force. Speaking of... Check this picture out of Nash Edgerton out. He's done stunts in just under 90 films according to IMDB - but if this film wasn't magical enough - look at what my camera caught during his Q&A. The man is otherworldly!

This euphoric feeling soon made way for hopes for the next film, THE SNAKE. This is the film that Patton Oswalt was bringing to SXSW this year. I hadn't really heard much about the film. This was its first film festival screening - and I had heard from some folks working at SXSW that it wasn't that funny. I just refused to believe that they knew funny better than Patton Oswalt. Patton not only knows funny, but funny blows him 7 times a day! He is intimately familiar with the ins and outs of funny and funny is never further than half a sentence from his lips. So I have faith. As I head out for a quick bathroom run, I meet the titular character THE SNAKE as played by Adam Goldstein. He seems crazy excited that I'm going to be seeing his film. Once inside the theater, Moriarty and I tag team Oswalt into not being a fucking pussy and going back to his hotel film after this film's Q&A, but to stick around for the bliss that awaits us at midnight called ONG BAK 2. About 72 seconds after we begin, Patton is running out to tell his Limo driver that it'll be a later night than he first thought! Hehehe! See - Patton's the real deal geek that he seems to be! Not that that surprises any of us!

Patton takes the stage to introduce the film. Letting us know that this is a first time feature by people that none of us have ever heard of before. He then reminds the audience that he brought FOOT FIST WAY to the world's attention in this very same room a year or two back - thus solely being responsible for all of those folks' careers. He's joined on stage by the co-directors of THE SNAKE - Adam Goldstein (above & below) and Eric Kutner (below).

SO - How is THE SNAKE? What is it about? THE SNAKE is a story about a pussy obsessed jew boy named KEN, well at least that's what he calls himself. Adam Goldstein plays this KEN as easily one of the most convincingly loathsome, yet admirably so, would-be Don Juan bastards that we've ever seen on screen. He seems to be a Brown Belt at the method that I was taught to know as "THE BAD PASS" - a method of picking up women that is 9 times out of 10 - a failure, but the numbers take care of you if you keep at it. Ken is a pretty small pile of shit, begging friends to hang out with him... Cockblocking, chauvenistic rat bastard of a guy. Yet, there's something about this Adam Goldstein that charms his way through a character that you should, by his every action, hate. He ends up setting his sites on this rail thin girl that has just joined a "BODY ISSUES" group at a Women's Building that he briefly stalks. He somehow talks his way into the group - all in his pursuit of this girl, who we learn has a problem with Bulimia. He's obsessed with getting her in bed and he has almost no morales in getting her there. First though, Ken must run the barrels between him and his prey... the other women in this group. Most of the hilarity comes from... well Ken's every moment, but specifically all the groundwork he goes through in landing this girl. Ken is an epic cad. Leia might have thought Han was a scoundrel, but she really wouldn't even begin to know one if she saw one. KEN is THE scoundrel - and like most scoundrels, there is something irresistable about them. The audience seemed to really get with this ultra-no-budget comedy - and I have to say - this film will find an audience. I don't know if it is slick enough to get a studio to buy into it, but the people involved we'll be seeing a lot from in the future. Especially Adam! He's great! This made way for the final film of the night. ONG BAK 2.

As anyone, who has seen the above trailer can ascertain - this isn't really a sequel to the original film. The only real common denominator is Tony Jaa, Thailand and Elephants. But ONG BAK was more than just a martial arts film, it was a lightning bolt to the Martial Arts genre which had grown tired and stale. It gave a new star with moves unlike anything we'd seen in film before. A star with charisma, power and presence that instantly caused people to start drawing comparisons to Bruce Lee. This particular film has been a bit of a legendary undertaking for all of us tracking it. The reports that Tony Jaa apparently suffered a mental breakdown while filming. The story goes that he disappeared into the jungle for 4 months to get his head on straight, then came out of the jungle to finish directing and starring in this film - which he also wrote and choreographed. I was concerned that Mr Jaa had taken too many responsibilities on his sturdy shoulders. And before the film was introduced - every hardcore indie film loving martial arts mega geek with a computer that I know was buzzing about what we were about to see. A movie that nobody had apparently seen yet. There was a palpable buzz like a swarm of bees. Was this our honey? We certainly hoped so! Then - after Janet Pierson introduced the first efforts of FANTASTIC FEST at SXSW - the lights went out. Our adjusting eyes could see strange forms moving through the dark spaces of this hallowed hall. Suddenly in an explosion of fire and confetti came forth the man-beast... Austin's own Tor Johnson... DAVID STRONG in a loincloth, viking helmet and blowing horn!!!

After his horn awoke seldom discussed cinematic urges that only the blowing of a great horn will cause... Julius League took his side...

They were a mighty pair - and as David "Tor" Strong wandered off into the darkness - he left Tim League, beer in hand, to fire this audience up for a midnight film - as only the wizard of FANTASTIC FEST could! What followed was a chugging contest between a team of Texans - and a team of FOREIGNERS. The beer to be chugged was Miller Lite, the Champagne of Beers as Tim likes to remind us. Sadly - the Texans lost due to well - we're just going to blame Massawyrm on general principle. After the contest - which had the audience chanting and cheering and booing... Tim went into a fevered introduction where ... well, he really had no facts to stand on. He was essentially just making shit up like the percentages he mentioned in the below figure - which apparently meant 5% of the film would be plot development - and 95% of it would be balls out action of some mind-boggling legendary levels.

Then... it came time... at last... for ONG BAK 2. I've been scanning online to see if the NEIC or SASO or IRIS Seismic centers actually picked up the earth-shattering levels of holy wow that this film caused in the audience tonight - but apparently the world was asleep at their stations. BECAUSE - ONG BAK 2 defied all expectations and became something truly awe-inspiring. ONG BAK 2 isn't at all like ONG BAK. Imagine if you will... if EXCALIBUR era John Boorman was genetically mixed with Bruce Lee and a shitload of awesome Thai badasses that nobody has ever heard of - and they created the greatest fucking CONAN movie that you've ever seen! It isn't CONAN. If anything, it's a Buddhist CONAN. The film is stunningly beautiful. Filled with soul. Epic in scale. Unbelievably brilliant in action, design and scope. Throughout the film - I was told I was twitching and vibrating like one's cock before coating the interior fleshy drapes of the most awesome vagina ever! I LOST TOTAL CONTROL DURING THIS MOVIE. Good thing I'm in a wheelchair and not in a seat next to someone - because my arms became an extension of some strange portion of my brain that I'm rarely in contact with. This movie made me happy like a 4 year old! This is unlike anything you've seen before. This isn't anything like a Kurosawa Japanese epic Samurai film. This isn't anything like CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON or the Zhang Yimou films. This is something wholly new. And absolutely that fucking awesome or more! Do you remember EASTER MORNING as a kid? The absolute crazed overload of sugar by way of Chocolate bunnies, eggs, PEETS and all manners of confectionary evil? This is just like that, but with fists, feet, elbows, triple-irons, dozens of types of swords, crocadiles, elephants, possessed scary fucking witchy women, Thai ninja fucks, bandit kings, tons of other weapons and body parts all slashing, tearing and ripping pieces and blood out of people. BUT beyond all of that is a story told with flashbacks which at first seem ever so slightly awkward, if only because it seems it's gonna be lame like a hug and a kiss - until suddenly it's just bitchen and cool! The story about a noble birthed boy, lost in the ravages of a nightmarish confused rainy night, sold into deathsport, recruited by the ultimate league of bad mutherfuckers, trained to kill via every possible weapon known and then.... Damn. No way. This movie needs to hit you with the full weight of HOLY FUCK like it hit me tonight! Tony Jaa. You've no idea. You'll come away from this film... not only astonished at his charisma and his physical prowess... but the idea that he wrote and directed this film. It's just. I mean. I can't believe what I saw. Which is why I'll be at the next showing at SXSW too. Once this film gets closer to release - I'll go into the conclusion of the film which is so incredibly Buddhist... that it will leave many in the audience wondering WHAT THE FUCK JUST HAPPENED? And I'm here to tell you... This is probably the most awesome film (and upcoming ONG BAK 3) to illustrate the greater awesome highs of Karma that I've ever seen. That a film can be this asskicking, this smart, this cultural, this beautiful and this much fucking fun - is just. This is so far and above better than anything we might have expected from Tony Jaa that I'm just treading life till I see it again. I'm serious. This is just so exciting and new and thrilling and ecstatic and revelatory and yet... it leaves you thinking and discussing the basic and advance layers of Buddhism in a way that I've never really seen before. Awesome doesn't cover it. I need some sort of Thai exclamation, but I don't know any. I'll just go with this! อัศเจรีย์ อัศเจรีย์ อัศเจรีย์ อัศเจรีย์ อัศเจรีย์ อัศเจรีย์ อัศเจรีย์ อัศเจรีย์ อัศเจรีย์ อัศเจรีย์ Can't wait to dive into Tomorrow. Though I think I'll have to rein in my expectations. I really can't imagine anything topping this for a while in my brain!

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