To Live and Write in LA

SXSW: Film, Computers, Music and Mr. Robot – Be There or Be Here

(Originally published on Blogcritics.org)

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This year’s poster for SXSW Film includes a blank note for autographs

If you’ve never heard of SXSW (pronounced South by South West), you might not believe it. During eleven days in March, Austin, Texas, will welcome 85,000 people, host 5,000 speakers, showcase over 150 bands, offer 1,500 educational and networking sessions, and screen over 200 films (not counting music videos) more than 450 times. And, Mr.Robot will be there.

Now in its 30th year, SXSW (called “SouthBy” by the cool kids) has launched careers and been the sparkplug that made Austin a music and film mecca for cutting-edge creatives. Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids, Dusk Till Dawn, Once Upon a Time in Mexico), Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, A Scanner Darkly, Boyhood) and Mike Judge (Beavis and Butt-Head, Idiocracy, King of the Hill) all call Austin home. And nowhere else can you take a stroll down Willie Nelson Boulevard.

If you can’t be there, you’ll want to follow the news on Blogcritics.org as several of the site’s writers (including me) will be chronicling what looks best and most exciting to them.

My very subjective short list includes Richard Linklater’s new film, Everybody Wants Some,  J.J. Abrams’ restoration of the horror classic Phantasm, and the Mr. Robot Carnival.

The Short List

Everybody Wants Some is promoted as the “spiritual sequel” to Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. This time it’s not the 70’s, but the 1980’s, and the truth seekers are guys on a college baseball team. They try to understand, through the haze of a wild weekend, what it means to be an adult. The film stars Zoey Deutch and Ryan Guzman and has its world premiere as the “SXSW Opening Night Film” on Friday, March 11.

Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm, released in 1979, has been a horror-cult must-see and one of J.J. Abrams’ favorite films. Abrams wanted to bring the Phantasm experience to a new generation, so he worked with Coscarelli on a 4K restoration. They used the original 35mm film negatives to produce the digital version. It premieres at SXSW on Monday, March 14.

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The Mr. Robot crew at last year’s SXSW

Last year, one of my personal favorites was the premiere of Mr. Robot. It played at SXSW before it had made it onto the TV schedule. Its showing ignited the buzz and it took off from there, going on to become an award-winning USA Network hit. If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll know that one of the key locations in the story is an abandoned arcade in a rundown amusement park.

Payback is a Bacchanal

Payback is not always that naughty word, as this year, USA Network will bring the world of Mr. Robot to SXSW. For four days, attendees will be able to wander through the world of Mr. Robot. The experience will include rides on the 100-foot Mr. Robot Ferris Wheel, the hacker arcade where Eliot and his minions do their work, a graffiti art installation, and the Hacker Lounge where the series pilot will play every day. Fans will be able to get custom Mr. Robot t-shirts and other souvenir gear.

Educational, too

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Austin has a goal and SXSW helps it along

Series stars Christian Slater and Rami Malek will join show creator and executive producer Sam Esmail for a session titled “Coding on Camera: MR. ROBOT and Authenticity on TV”. This will be part of the Future of Entertainment track which combines interests from the music, film, and technology worlds. Other speakers from the film side will include actor Jake Gyllenhaal, producer Sarah Green, and actress/philanthropist Kerry Washington.

If film is not your thing, you might spend time at virtual reality experiences; free gaming rooms, health and medical tech demos, the technology of sports track or the music trade show.

Sounds like attendees might get tired? Don’t worry. Free food and beverages abound at SXSW. Free beer does exist at SXSW, and at the other extreme, trucks drive up and down the streets distributing free energy drinks. In the morning there are yoga classes to help you recover. I intend to find sustenance at the BBQ Crash Course and hang out at the SXSWesteros Lounge. Winter is coming, but not to SXSW.

Have any fun stories from previous SXSW years? Share them below.

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