To Live and Write in LA

SXSW Preview: Film, Tech, and Kittens (also, Al Pacino, Ryan Gosling, Guillermo Del Toro, Molly Ringwald, and Robots)

(Originally published on Blogcritics.org)

Attending SXSW (pronounced South by Southwest), the annual Austin, Texas, technology, film and music festival should be on everyone’s bucket list. (For notes on the music at this year’s SXSW read the Blogcritics review here.) Imagine the largest film, music, and technology shows you’ve ever been to, combine them, then reimagine them as if they were produced by Michael Bay. Oh, and there’s a lot of free beer, too.

Gene Cernan – The Last Man on the Moon

Gene Cernan – The Last Man on the Moon

This year’s SXSW, March 13-21, is stunning in its extent.  The thousands of events include film screenings, one-on-one mentor sessions with industry professionals, book signings, workshops, two trade shows, live comedy, award shows and networking opportunities. Besides the main topics of the conference, specialty areas with their own tracks include video gaming, education, entrepreneurship, medicine and sports.

A hundred people attending SXSW would all come up with a different not-to-be-missed list. Here’s mine.

A Conversation with Ryan Gosling and Guillermo Del Toro – Gosling (Lars and the Real Girl, Drive, Crazy Stupid Love) will discuss his transition from actor to filmmaker with Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, The Hobbit).

Last Man on the Moon – This documentary about the life of Astronaut Eugene Cernan will detail not only the epic journey, but the sacrifices it took to get there for him and his family. His wife summed it up: “If you think going to the moon is hard, try staying at home.”

Al Pacino

Al Pacino as a widower looking for meaning in Manglehorn

Manglehorn Al Pacino and Holly Hunter, star in a story about a widower who struggles to break out of his grief and isolation, stuck in a world where he relates more to his cat than the people around him.

A Fine Line: Journalism, Storytelling and Advocacy – This panel discussion will explore where and how journalists and other storytellers should draw the line between reporting and relaying a “call to action” to readers. Objectivity is often hard to define. Just ask my editor.

The Breakfast Club 30th Anniversary Restoration World Premiere – John Hughes’ (Sixteen Candles, Weird Science) iconic tale of 1980s high school life has been restored for our modern HD world.  Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy, also in full HD, will attend the showing.

The BBQ Crash Course – This is where I get to devour an overflowing platter of  brisket, ribs, and other tasty treats while learning from some of Central Texas’ expert pit-masters. Desert is included.
Alicia Vikander

Alicia Vikander is one smart robot in Ex Machina

Ex Machina – Alex Garland (writing credits include 28 Days Later, Never Let Me Go, and Dredd) makes his directorial debut with a tale about a sexy robot, played by Alicia Vikander. Haven’t we seen this story before? What sets this film apart will be explored the day after the premiere when the director and the team behind the production  will discuss the moral and philosophical questions involved with artificial intelligence and why these “…are more fascinating and real to us than ever before”.

They Will Have To Kill Us First – In 2012, Jihadists took over Mali and imposed one of the most extreme sharia regimes in the world. On August 12, 2012, they banned music. Radio stations were destroyed, instruments were burned and musicians faced imprisonment or execution. This documentary shows the fight of Mali musicians to keep music alive. It takes us to refugee camps, battles between Jihadis and the Mali Army, and war ravaged cities. In particular, it follows the path of one band, Songhoy Blues, and its struggle to overcome violence and oppression.

Love and MercyThe Beach Boys, from when I first heard their music in High School to singing their songs in my car with my ten-year old daughter, have played a big part in my life. This film, starring  John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamatti, follows Brian Wilson’s personal journey. Wilson, singer, songwriter and leader of the Beach Boys, payed a high personal price for his art. Love and Mercy promises an unconventional portrait of his struggle and ultimate redemption.

The Songhoy Blues

The Songhoy Blues band fighting against the ban on music in Mali

A Conversation with Senator Rand Paul – The Kentucky Senator will join the Evan Smith, Editor-in-Chief of the Texas Tribune, to discuss the impact of technology on campaigning, governing and citizen engagement. People say “Keep the government out of our bedrooms”. This conversation will look at keeping government out of our computers.

Other highlights will include Jimmy Kimmel broadcasting live from SXSW on March 16, the business Startup Village, the Introduction to Programming Robots class, the Game of Thrones: SXSWesteros Lounge, a new biography of Steve Jobs, and an interview with Wynonna Judd. And this just scratches the surface.

OK, I promised kittens.

Animal Planet’s Next Cat Star Party will reveal the finalists in Animal Planet and AT&T’s search for the next superstar cat. Party goers will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite feline finalist. I’m not voting for any kitty that doesn’t rub against my leg.

Check back here at Blogcritics for more stories about the craziness, creativity and wisdom that I, Leo of Mars, and your music correspondent Tan The Man, find at SXSW, beginning March 13.

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