Movie and musical festivals are one of the hottest places to debut your independent, and even big-screen blockbuster films. The first major film festival of the year, Sundance in Utah, opened our eyes to what could be the Oscar front runners of 2016. Last year gave us Boyhood and Whiplash, two critically-acclaimed as well as audience beloved films that both took home Oscars in 2015. The 2015 South By South West Film & Music Festival will host a bevy of headliners, documentary features, scripted narratives with Hollywood A-listers attached, and much in between.
There are far too many films to screen during the week long film portion of the festival, so making tough choices isn't at all unexpected. Whether you came to laugh, with films starring Kevin Hart, Will Ferrell, and Melissa McCarthy, or be moved by documentaries, SXSW has a little (read: a lot) of something for everyone. Here are some of my top picks from the 2015 line-up. If you're not able to attend in person, keep an eye out for these titles as they (fingers crossed) have their wide release in the future.
Directed by Craig Macneill and starring The Office's Rainn Wilson, Mike Vogel, David Morse, The Boy is about a nine-year-old with sociopathic tendencies who becomes increasingly fascinated with death. It will make its world premiere at the festival.
BRAND: A Second Coming
This documentary directed by Ondi Timoner follows comedian and author Russell Brand as he evolves from a drug addict to a Hollywood A-lister. It also follows his unexpected and perhaps accidental turn as a political disrupter. In this film, the actor calls for a revolution. The film will make its world premiere at the festival.
A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story
Called the ugliest girl on earth, Lizzie Velasquez, a 58-pound victim of cyber-bullying, stars in this documentary as she inspires those around her and across the internet. This film is directed by Sara Hirsh Bordo and will have its world premiere at the festival.
Directed and written by Alex Garland, whose past credits include The Beach (yes, the one with Leonardo DiCaprio), Dredd, and 28 Days Later, Ex Machina follows a young computer programmer who wins a unique contest. He's selected to participate in an experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a female — and very beautiful — A.I. The fantastical film stars Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson.
With Orange is the New Black's Natasha Lyonne, Judy Greer, and Aubrey Plaza, this film already has our comedic-loving attention. Lyonne plays a lesbian who's forced to move back to Fresno and take up a job cleaning hotel rooms with her sex-addicted sister. Enticed? Me too. Also starring Fred Armisen, Ron Livingston, and Jessica St. Clair, this is surely one not to miss.
The Final Girls
I'm the first person to shudder at the thought of sitting through a feature-length horror film, but The Final Girls, is one I'm actually looking forward to screaming at. Directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson, the plot follows Max and her friends as they are mysteriously transported into a 1980's horror film that scarred Max's mother way back when. They must find a way back home, but first, find a way to kill the manical killer haunting the '80s slasher. Sounds completely campy, meta, and awesome.
By now, you've seen the trailers for Will Ferrell's latest screw-ball buddy comedy. Co-starring Kevin Hart, the story follows a yuppie (Ferrell) headed to prison for ten years, who enlists the help of someone he thinks has experienced prison (Hart) to toughen him up before his ten-year stint behind bars. Super crude, possibly offensive, but likely stacked with laughs, this film will delight the seasoned Ferrell fans and pubescent boys alike. Directed by Etan (not Ethan) Cohen, the film will make its world premiere at the festival.
Hello, My Name is Doris
Directed by Michael Showalter (The Daily Show, College Humor) and starring Sally Field in the titular role, the film centers around an isolated 60-year-old woman who decides, because of a self-help seminar, to pursue a much younger coworker. Because of this, she stumbles into the local hipster scene and chaos and laughs ensue. I'm already giggling at this logline, and can't wait to see Field in an off-kilter fedora hat and denim shirt, organic espresso in hand. Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself, though the rest of the cast (Max Greenfield, Natasha Lyonne, and Wendi McLendon-Covey) only further my want to preemptively call this film a success.
The synopsis is sort of dull: "Reclusive small town locksmith, A.J. Manglehorn, who has never recovered from his losing his true love embarks on a new tenuous relationship with a local woman he meets at the bank." But, with David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Joe) on board to direct, and starring Al Pacino, Holly Hunter, Harmony Korine, and Chris Messina, we're going to give this film a fighting chance.
When Paul Feig directs something, you see it, no questions asked. But when Paul Feig directs Melissa McCarthy as a CIA analyst turned gun-slinging spy, you get in line an hour early and pray for a front row seat. Also starring Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Miranda Hart, Bobby Cannavale, Allison Janney, Peter Serafinowicz, Morena Baccarin and Jude Law, expect a packed house at this premiere.
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine
I'm probably not the only consumer who is a little burnt out on Steve Job origin stories. But perhaps that's because these tales have been sensationalized with a narrative script. I'm looking forward to Alex Gibney's documentary on Jobs not to learn more about the subject matter, but for the way in which the director promises to relate audiences to the story. The synopsis says: "An evocative portrait of the life and work of Steve Jobs that re-examines his legacy and our relationship with the computer."
Images: 20th Century FOX; SXSW.com