25 Movies We Can't Wait to See at SXSW 2019 - Rolling Stone
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25 Movies We Can’t Wait to See at SXSW 2019

From docs on Lil Peep, Johnny Cash and a Japanese Jimmy Page tribute artist to the world premiere of Jordan Peele’s ‘Us.’

Claudette Barius/Universal Pictures (US); Atsushi Nishijima/NEON (The Beach Bum)

It’s got premieres of rom-coms, raunch-coms, fem-coms, a few regular ol’ coms, a WTF movie starring a rum-soaked Matthew McDonaughey and the single most anticipated second film since Pulp Fiction. You like music docs? How about a whole sidebar of ’em, including ones on Lil Peep, Johnny Cash, boy-band impresario Lou Pearlman, CREEM Magazine, a legendary rock photographer and a guitarist who’s devoted his life to playing like Jimmy Page? Follow-up question: How does the idea of walking out of an early preview of a Hollywood blockbuster-to-be, the kind that features A-list stars, and then walking a few blocks to see a movie that was filmed on a phone and cost about as much as a weekend bar tab?

This is what you’ll get when you go to the 2019 edition of SXSW, the Austin, Texas-based film festival that began as an offshoot of the multi-tentacled music/tech/interactive/etc. event and has, over the years, transformed itself into the sort of destination fest you plan vacations around. There’s still a lot of lower-than-lo-fi Amerindies and the sort of midnight schlock-and-awe psychotronica that’s been the main bread and butter of the film fest, now in its 26th year. But over the last decade, bigger names have begun to realize that the festival is the perfect place to unveil certain types of projects (SXSW audiences are particularly friendly to comedy and horror). Up-and-coming filmmakers who’ve been nurtured here have come back with bigger, bolder works or provided keynote addresses. The chance for discoveries beyond the rough, raw $500,000-and-under character studies that characterized a lot of the early programming has risen exponentially. It’s grown into something that’s the best(-ish) of many worlds now.

And this year’s festival, which runs from March 8th to the 17th, is no different. Below are 25 movies we’re looking forward to seeing, or have seen and can’t wait to share, at SXSW 2019. It’s going to be a very good year.

‘Mr. Jimmy’

Maybe you really, really love Jimmy Page. You still probably don’t love him as much as Akio Sakurai. As a kid, this son of a kimono designer wandered in to a screening of The Song Remains the Same and became entranced by the Led Zeppelin guitarist’s playing and presence. And as an adult, he will transform himself into “Mr. Jimmy” — someone so obsessively devoted to replicating not just Page’s sound and fashion style that he can tell the difference between a 1969 live version of Dazed and Confused and ’77 arrangement. Then one night Sakurai meets the real deal, and everything changes. An incredible take on identity, artistry, projection, passion and trying to inspire others to follow an impossible dream of second-hand perfection.

‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’

Zak (Zack Gottsgen) is a young man with Down’s Syndrome who’s obsessed with pro-wrestling. He knows he’ll never joins the ranks of his suplex-dealing heroes if he stays at the nursing home where he lives, however. So he runs away, embarking on a whirlwind adventure that will involve quirky strangers, the consumption of whiskey, laughter, tears and an offbeat look at our modern American landscape. We’re not sure the comparisons to the literature of Mark Twain in the press notes is doing this movie any favors, to be honest, but check out the supporting cast: Shia LeBeouf, Dakota Johnson, Jon Bernthal, Bruce Dern, Mick Foley, Yelawolf (!), John Hawkes, Thomas Haden Church. Not to mention that “the Peanut Butter Falcon” is possibly the best name for a celebrity wrestler since the Iron Shiek.

‘Red 11’

He financed part of his groundbreaking debut El Mariachi by testing the effects of drugs for a medical research facility — it’s a key part of director Robert Rodriguez’s D.I.Y origin story. So it’s no surprise that the indie-film veteran would return to his experience decades later, or that, given his love of genre flicks, he’d mine his days as a “human lab rat” for horror-movie fodder. A young man named Rob (Robby Attal) signs up for a 30-day experiment to chart the side effects of new pharmaceuticals; if you just guessed that things quickly take a turn for the weird and fucked-up, we applaud your extraordinary precognitive abilities.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Snap Stills/REX/Shutterstock (1933418e)Meg Ryan, Billy CrystalWhen Harry Met Sally - 1989

‘Romantic Comedy’

A documentary about the history of the rom-com, complete with clip montages and commentary? You had us at “hello”! Just because writer-director Elisabeth Sankey is a self-proclaimed superfan of these films, however, doesn’t mean that she’s blind to how they affect our collective notions of amore. So she’s also recruited a voiceover chorus to weigh in the good, bad and ugly way these movies color what we talk about when we talk about love. In other words, you get to have your genre cake and critique it too!

‘Running With Beto’

Very few people knew who Beto O’Rourke was when the then–45-year-old Texan started running against incumbent Ted Cruz for the state’s Senate seat in 2018. Sure, he’d been a U.S. representative for six years at that point, but the man was not a household name. By the time he was narrowly defeated this past fall, however, the handsome guy with the 1000-watt smile was being hailed as the Democratic Party’s Great White Hope and a possible candidate for the 2020 Presidential election. Documentarian David Modigliani had been tagging along with O’Rourke as his campaign went from local concern to national cause célèbre, which means we get a grounds-eye view of a political Cinderella story in the making.

‘Shangra-Lai’

He gave us the final word(s) on back-up singers and Mister Rogers; now Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?) takes on record producer/musical Svengali/facial-hair pioneer Rick Rubin. The documentarian and co-director Jeff Malmberg (Marwencol) present a work-in-progress portrait of Rubin as he tools around his home studio named Shangra-Lai — the place where everybody from Johnny Cash to Neil Diamond to the Avett Brothers have recorded some of the most stripped back, memorable songs.

‘Show Me the Picture: The Story of Jim Marshall’

Jim Marshall had a knack for being at the right place at the right time. The shutterbug was there when the beatniks were hanging out in San Francisco’s North Beach; when jazz legends like John Coltrane and Miles Davis came through town; when a young Bob Dylan was bopping around Greenwich Village; when the Civil Rights movement and the anti-war movement were changing America; when the Bay Area became the ground zero for 1960s counterculture and Johnny Cash plays Folsom prison and Hendrix set Monterey Pop on fire. Alfred George Bailey’s portrait of the famed photographer reminds you that Marshall didn’t just shoot some of the most iconic rock & roll pictures but chronicled the times he lived in. It also doesn’t shy away from what a walking contradiction he was: a Haight Ashbury hippie with anger issues, a mercurial man who was equally fascinated with peace signs and firearms.

‘Sword of Trust’

Cynthia (Jillian Bell) shows up to collect on the inheritance from her late, great Southern grandfather — which turns out to be, er, a sword. Not just any saber, mind you: A genuine-article Confederate sword from the American Civil War. And, as the woman, her best friend (Michaela Watkins), a pawn shop proprietor (GLOW‘s Marc Maron) and his employee (Jon Bass) quickly discover, it’s actually a much-sought-after item. That, and the notion that certain sectors of our country have never really come to terms with that conflict’s outcome. This is the kind of character-based, potentially quirky indie dramedy that tend to clutter festivals like SXSW. The fact that Lynn Shelton (Humpday, Your Sister’s Sister, too many great TV shows to count) is calling the shots, along with this cast, is enough to get our attention.

Lupita Nyong'o in 'Us.'

‘Us’

It’s only, I dunno, the single most anticipated movie of 2019? Jordan Peele has been remarkably cryptic about what his follow-up to Get Out is actually about. There’s a family, led by Black Panther‘s Winston Duke and Lupita Nyong’o; they’ve taken their son and daughter on a joint getaway trip with Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker; a quartet of folks who are near-exact doubles of the parents and kids show up, with some sort of sinister plans in mind; shit gets really weird. Scissors and bunnies play a part in the proceedings as well. If it’s even one-ninth as creepy and terrifying as its trailer, this is going to be the scariest movie of the year.

‘Villains’

When you run out of gas on a rural, near-deserted road right after you’ve robbed a gas station — that’s bad luck. So you take refuge in the nearest place you can find, which turns out to be a well-kept, expensive-looking house with no one at home — ok, that’s good luck. Only it turns out that said domicile is the sight of some twisted-as-fuck goings-on, and you suddenly find yourself in way over you head in in the weirdness department once the owners come back — we don’t know what kind of luck that constitutes, frankly. Maika Monroe and ol’ Pennywise himself, Bill Skarsgård, are the outlaw couple; Jeffrey Donovan and Kyra Sedgwick are their Ward and June Cleaver-ish hosts. Remember: Never go in the basement, folks. Never.

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