With the annual SXSW festivals starting this Friday, I wanted to give a quick preview of some of the exciting titles screening at the Paramount and State over the next two weeks. From splashy blockbusters and stars to new documentaries and challenging independent films, there’s something for everyone during the fest. In no particular order, here are my top 5 picks:
1. SOURCE CODE (Dir. Duncan Jones)
After a breakout a couple years back with the inventive sci-fi drama MOON, David Bowie’s son returns with his sophomore effort: another thinking person’s take on the on the genre film, starring Jake Gyllenhaal. A sort of action film version of GROUNDHOG DAY style repitition, Gyllenhaal stars as a marine that must use a new computer program which enables him to cross over into another man’s identity in the last 8 minutes of his life. He goes back to the moment of a terrorist attack, and must repeat those last minutes until he finds a clue to stop further violence.
2. New Jerusalem (Dir. R Alverson)
Sean is an Irish immigrant to America that has just returned from a tour in Afghanistan. Ike is a hardworking and god-fearing American. The two men meet working at an auto shop, and form a friendship despite their differences. Though it is a simple setup for a film, Alverson’s lyrical photography and the low key, quiet performances from the two leads (Colm O’Leary and indie rock stalwart Will Oldham) create a powerful intensity. NEW JERUSALEM is the rare American indie that wants to tackle the biggest questions in life, from the nature of human interactions to spiritual salvation.
3. THE INNKEEPERS (Dir. Ti West)
Ti West is one of the most fascinating young directors making horror films today. His films hearken back to older forms: 60s late night TV, 80s slashers, but with a keen intelligence and sense of pacing and framing that was frequently lacking from those grindhouse efforts. His new film is a haunted house tale, and I can’t wait to see West making a traditional ghost story.
4. PAGE ONE: A YEAR INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES (Dir. Andrew Rossi)
One of the buzzed about films of this year’s Sundance film festival, this portrait of a year inside the New York Times looks into the tumultuous world of journalism. From the influx of new technologies and declining circulations of printed papers, the doc examines the changing place of news in America.
5. IN A BETTER WORLD (Dir. Susanne Bier)
This year’s Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, Bier’s portrait of familial strife has been a major hit at festivals around the world. The film draws parallel stories between a young boy in Denmark navigating the violence of growing up juxtaposed with his father’s story as a doctor working in Africa. Powerful acting and beautiful visuals make up a can’t miss film.