As we close the books on another successful SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, it's time to power through the sleep deprivation and BBQ and breakfast taco-induced food comas to take a walk through a few of the buzziest happenings of this year's fest.
The great thing about SXSW is that it is a festival for fans. The audiences and attendees are an open-minded, excited group of cinephiles which creates a welcoming atmosphere that attracts a film slate as diverse, dynamic and unique as those who support it, including big names and small. Without further ado, here are a few of the films which fit the buzzworthy bill this year:
1. "Space Station 76"
Don't let the time period and outer space setting fool you into thinking it's a campy satire, this star-studded film has depth and dark comedy for days. Its international rights have also already been snatched up by Sony Pictures Worldwide. SXSW highlight: At the film's premiere the projector stopped mere minutes into the screening and forced director Jack Plotnick to conduct an impromptu early Q&A.
"I don't even know what came out of my mouth," Plotnick told Yahoo Movies. "The movie, five minutes in just stopped and went black and there was this very awkward pause." Plotnick's cast, which includes Patrick Wilson, Matt Bomer, Liv Tyler, Marisa Coughlin and Jerry O'Connell claim his quick-thinking saved the day, that he was like "a one-man stand-up show."
"I was like Dick Van Dyke in 'Mary Poppins'" Plotnick joked.
2. "Veronica Mars"
This cult TV show-turned kickstarter-backed-movie-that-could lit up social media and the Interwebs for months leading up to its SXSW premiere at the Alamo Drafthouse. The audience was full of fans and Kickstarter backers who pledged $750 or more to be involved. Cast members admitted to being most nervous about the Austin premiere because it was their first time seeing it with so many fans who supported the film. SXSW highlight: In addition to the hoopla that surrounded the premiere, the cast's selfie.
— Kristen Bell (@IMKristenBell) March 8, 2014
[Related: Check Out Our 2014 SXSW Selfie Gallery]
— Zac Efron (@ZacEfron) March 9, 2014
The cast of "Neighbors" took Austin by storm with a two-day media blitz that had many SXSW'ers either talking about the cast or clamoring to see them. Seth Rogen, Zac Efron, Dave Franco, Ike Barinholtz and director Nicholas Stoller made successful media stops around town that included the Funny or Die frat house (more on that later), a Tumblr meet-up, hanging with Bravo's Andy Cohen for "Watch What Happens Live," and a Q&A from our own Yahoo space at Brazos Hall at which we learned Efron drives shirtless and Rogen felt "really old" during filming.
The official SXSW celebration for the movie, which revolves around Mac (Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) moving next door to a frat house and the antics which ensue, was a frat party thrown at the Funny or Die house. It was a very hot ticket in town that night, even in the midst of cool temperatures and intermittent pouring rain.
4. "Break Point"
You don't have to be a tennis fan to enjoy the comedic back and forth between familiar faces Jeremy Sisto ("Clueless") and David Walton ("About a Boy"), who play brothers and doubles partners playing together for one last tournament. If you are into the sport however, the stars promise audiences the most realistic tennis play ever captured on screen.
"It's the best tennis you've ever seen in a tennis movie," Walton said, after comparing Sisto's tennis style to that of an uncaged animal. Bonus Sisto fact: In addition to starring in the film, Sisto also developed the story with Gene Hong, a five-year process they are happy to see end with the finished film.
The fest's official opening night film made its mark in several ways that didn't involve the premiere. First director Jon Favreau took to Twitter to announce that "Iron Man" star Robert Downey Jr. designed the promo posters, then the day after the premiere, Favreau and chef Roy Choi, of Kogi Taco fame and the film's food consultant, held a live cooking demonstration in front of a lucky few. It was just after the demonstration when we learned how Gwyneth Paltrow is the film's secret weapon in that she introduced Favreau to Choi's Kogi tacos.
This is the quaint little tale of a high school virgin Rob Crabbe (Jon Karna) who is living the same day over and over again, reset whenever he climaxes. Think a twisted, raunchy, "Groundhog's Day" set in high school. Written and directed by Dan Beers, the film takes its cues from John Hughes rather than raunchy classic "Porky's."
"Outside of the film's fantasy sequence we wanted everything in the film to be kept almost PG," Beers told us. "Outside of the wet spots, and the language, I didn't want to go too far over-the-top. There's a lot of heart in the movie," he added, citing John Hughes' beloved 80s high school movies as an influence. "I loved how he depicted teenagers in a very honest way and not afraid to show the heart in the movie."
The film is a showcase and/or potential springboard for its young cast Karna, Carlson Young, Adam Riegler, Katie Findlay, as well as another great piece of scene-stealing character work by Alan Tudyk ("Suburgatory," "Firefly")
7. "We'll Always Have Paris"
This film might be the bravest of the bunch purely because writer/co-director Simon Helberg ("The Big Bang Theory") decided to air his dirty laundry for entertainment purposes. Okay dirty is a stretch, but the subject matter of "Paris" is definitely heartbreaking and uncomfortable at times, in that it is loosely based on a particular rough patch Helberg and his wife, Jocelyn, survived during their courtship.
"It's either brave or stupid," Helberg told us when asked about what made him eager to share this particular story with the world. "It's definitely a vulnerable position we've put ourselves in, but it did make for a great story. When you really put yourself out there hopefully you get people to laugh with you, although some of it will be at me I'm sure."
If you're a fan or original horror films or of Karen Gillan ("Doctor Who"), there is very little else you need to know about "Oculus" to be interested. The film played in the fest's Midnighters series, among a healthy crop of other genre films and generated buzz for its originality, a new take on the haunted house or object storyline. If you saw the 1992 horror film "Candyman" and it left a mirror-avoiding impression upon you, get ready for that aversion to be renewed when you see it. How scary is "Oculus?" We think Gillan's selfie says it all:
Check out the rest of our SXSW 2014 selfie gallery here.