SXSW Film Review: Family

Written by Tracy Fuller

SXSW is one of the premier spots to showcase a new film coming to the big screen in North America. With this year’s festival having a record number of films premiering, there was a considerable buzz generating around Laura Steinel’s Family.

Family is a comedy-drama that focuses on a young teenager, Maddie (Byrn Vale) looking for acceptance and love – a borrowed concept from the timeless John Candy classic Uncle Buck. Kate (Taylor Schilling) is asked to take care of Maddie while her parents go out of town to care for a family member. Kate is by no means fit to watch over anyone’s child, much less herself.

Because Kate is so self-absorbed and unfiltered in every minute of her day, she does not have the first idea of how to relate to Maddie. When she does begin to listen to stories of being harassed at school, Kate can connect to it from her childhood. It is at that point the walls she has built around herself slowly begin to chip away. What was supposed to be one night watching Maddie becomes a full week. This takes Kate entirely out of her comfort zone at work, causing her to start neglecting details.

At work, Kate is known to be cutthroat, but now that she is distracted trying to care for Maddie, it begins to backfire. The more she leans towards the nurturing side, the more Kate’s calloused exterior starts to soften.

In the middle of Kate’s failed efforts, Maddie ends up going missing and finds her identity within the Juggalo family. During the search for Maddie, Kate learns that she has made her way to the Gathering of the Juggalos. The Gathering is a music festival which has gained some notoriety and continues to be a topic of discussion in today’s pop culture.

The series of events proposes a moral decision of what is more important to Kate: working on her career or building a relationship with Maddie. By the end of the movie, you will find yourself in the feels. This production was brilliantly put together and structured. It made me quite happy to see Steinel portray Juggalos at their core, which compliments the storyline so well as finding love and acceptance in each other.

One of the things I adore about this film is how that very same love and acceptance from the Juggalos is captured in this comedy gold classic. This movie captures the essence of family, not only by blood but also by bonds. I left the theater thankful for my friends. Furthermore, it was an incredible experience hanging out with Laura Steinel and the rest of the cast. I look forward to seeing this one again.

SXSW Film Review: Blockers

Written by Tracy Fuller

A New Spin On An Adult-Teen Raunchy Comedy

Blockers is an adult raunchy comedy that revolves around three high school girls who make a pact to lose their virginity on prom night. Little do they know, their parents come together to ruin their plans.

Blockers is the directing debut for Kay Cannon. Cannon pushes the strengths of its cast while capturing the different dynamics in the 3 (sets) of parents and their conflicts.

Single mom Lisa (Leslie Mann) is having denial issues with the imminent departure of her daughter Julie (Kathryn Newton) for college. Mitchell (John Cena) is a buff dad but holds some strong feminine qualities mixed with small doses of testosterone. He tries to have a bonding relationship with daughter Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) as if she was his son but wears a dress. Divorcee dad Hunter (Gideon Adlon) who has not been around since the marriage dissolved. He now recognizes the value of his relationship with daughter, Sam (Gideon Adlon) and tries to salvage it by making sure her prom night is a memorable one.

After the girls leave for prom, the parents stumble upon a confusing bit of emojis that they ultimately discover as the sex pact. All the parents set out to track them down and stop them from consummating the night.

What ensues as a crazy chase all over town cause a few disastrous events to occur. In the midst of all these events, the trio of parents finds a way to work through their dilemmas. Coincidently, as are the three girls.

Blockers is more on the rated R side of comedy. The film also balances teen humor with adult humor. I mean imagine parading through a hough naked and blindfolded chasing your partner down by their own “musk.”

The movie portrays what a typical environment is for today’s teen. They set out to have a great time. In doing so the insecurities of the parents is brought to light, something many parents today can relate. Even with the teen sex comedy, it highlights, in the end, some rethought decisions that lead to a better scenario for everyone.

This movie has the laughs, love, and appeal that make you think of American Pie or any John Hughes film.

While the talented and well-known talent casts the roles of the parents, the teens are the heart of the movie. These up and coming actresses sell their respective parts flawlessly.

The real predicament is whether the parents and the girls can make peace with the fact that everybody has to grow up. In the end, this movie has a bit of everything to keep you entertained. I was glad to see Cena’s acting get stretched. Also noting, Leslie Mann, who probably gives one of her best performances. I would see this movie again for sure.

SXSW Film Review: Ready Player One

Written by Tracy Fuller

Spielberg Captures The Heart of Life in Ready Player One

Ready Player One, the novel by Ernest Cline, on screen is a brilliant merger of the mind of Steven Spielberg and the adoption of the screenplay. Here is a film that any pop culture fanboy will cherish. With it premiering at this past year’s SXSW Film Festival, the anticipation was quite high.

“I didn’t make this movie just for gamers, I made this for everybody,” says Steven Spielberg.

The film is set in a dystopian trailer park, year 20145, in the city of Columbus. Within the trailer park stacks, characters like Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a real-life nobody, resides. In the virtual reality world, the Oasis, Watts finds himself to be more than a nobody.

The Oasis is the primary way of life in the future, providing entertainment, fantasies, ambitions, and ways to achieve a certain financial status. The Oasis is a world where gaming is life. Watts bares some remarkable friendships with some of the gaming elite in the alternative VR world. He spends most of his time living strapped into his VR headset, immersed in the Oasis.

In the Oasis, Watts is surrounded by pop culture references that have become a way of life. These references stem from game creator, the late James Halliday (Mark Rylance). Following his passing, it is announced that Halliday built one final game in the Oasis known as Anorak’s Quest. The mission calls for players to find three keys through a set of smaller objectives. Upon finding all three of Halliday’s keys, they will be granted the celebrated Easter Egg. This egg will give them full power and ownership of the Oasis and its assets in both worlds.

Watts becomes the first person to receive one of the coveted keys. In doing so, he draws the attention of legendary gamer, Art3mis (Olivia Cooke). He also becomes a mark for the Innovative Online Industries CEO Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn).

The combination of Steven Spielberg, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, and the team at Industrial Light & Magic, knock this one out of the park. Capturing the VR setting and its potential to the big screen is not an easy task. The Oasis is phenomenal; every landscape that you encounter in this film is full of pop culture references.

One of the things I enjoyed most about this film, is not the incredible visual appeal and abundant references, but also the heart that Spielberg captures in this film. The message ultimately conveys that no matter how hard you try to design an artificial life, you should not lose sight of what the real world has to offer.

Spielberg does capture Halliday’s character showing the struggle of following your heart and chasing your ambitions. Not to mention the fellowship and bonds you acquire in life. There is so much emotional overtone mixed into the story that you end up leaving the theater feeling better about life.

Q&A with Sego

Written and Photo by Nathaniel Torres

Sego, a Utah born and LA transplant band, was featured on NPR’s “The Austin 100″ and played their second official SXSW showcase this year.  The band was founded by members Spencer Peterson and Thomas Carroll and has since expanded to include Alyssa Davey (bass) and Brandon McBride (synth and guitar).  The band captures their audience by enveloping them in a groovy mirage. A sound I compare to a short-lived age of 90’s pop. A sort of mix between The Verve and Blur. Despite the older references, Sego stands on their own today while their crowds sing and dance to their tunes. If you needed any more convincing to take a listen just know the band’s cover of “Young Turks” was approved by Sir Rod Stewart himself.

How many SXSW have you attended/played?
Spencer: Second [as Sego]. We were here three years ago right after we started. Alyssa [bassist], this is her first time. She’s just getting acclimated to the noise.

Had you heard or known about SXSW before coming out?
Spencer: I’ve been here a bunch.  I was coming with different bands for years.  I’ve been to SXSW like 6 times maybe and it just continues to change every time I’m here.
Alyssa: I had always heard about SXSW. My dad actually was always pushing this other band I was in to go to SXSW. He was all about it.

Was it difficult getting an official showcase?
Spencer: It’s been relatively easy for us, in the past though. It’s interesting because you get one show and you are coming all this way for one show, but then within the month you end up picking up ten different showcases. As all these bands descend upon Austin there’s all this sifting and settling of the load. I feel like it’s hard because you have to put in some time, but once you’re kind of like in there, it really kind of pays off. You can find shows if you really push for it, even if you are not official. I’ve done SXSW [with different bands] three years in a row – not being official – and we played awesome huge shows. It was great.

How was your travel out here?
Spencer: We are trying to make a loop of it. A lot of out-of-state bands will try to make a route into and out of SXSW; which makes it tough touring in and out of SXSW because all of a sudden it means every band is routed on the same timeline and the same place.
Alyssa: I found that with a friend of mine; their band played here. They did the same thing and made a tour out of it. You’re already going out there so do some shows on the way and do some shows on the way back.
Spencer: It kind of creates a weird road culture where all these little towns that normally don’t get big bands are overwhelmed. All these bands need a place to play. Places most people haven’t heard of get decent shows leading up and coming away from SXSW. This place moves like a small little economy outside of Austin just because of so much cross traffic.

What are your feelings on the atmosphere? Were you well received?

Alyssa: The people here are into music because clearly they’re at a music festival but in a different way. It’s an appreciation. Here it’s a little different because you’re seeing so many bands that you don’t know that you’ve never heard of, so it’s like new ears every time.
Spencer: Yeah the whole attitude is different. It’s still cool.

Badges are quite expensive and the word is that artists do not really make a profit.  What are your feelings on this?
Spencer: I think everybody treats it like a loss. I knew one band that actually made money on a show…and it blew my mind. We pay out just to get here, just get the opportunity. Personally, I go into it assuming that it’s just a wash. You can offset the loss a little bit by booking some shows in and out and making it more purposeful.

Does the festival open doors? What are the benefits of getting out here?
Spencer: Yeah and close some. Most people here are here with a purpose and have some industry clout. We had a crappy show and it turned cool people off on us. They were at that show and they were actually kind of high rollers. So, we learned the hard way you should never mail in a show, ever…especially at SXSW because you never know who’s out in the audience. It’s not like a random tour stop. Whether [it’s a] label or PR people, I feel like every time I’m out here I meet people I forge friendships with and relationships with.

What were some other things you got into while you were here?
Alyssa: Barbecue!
Spencer: I feel like I got to get some barbecue while we’re in town.

Will you be doing SXSW again or coming back our way sometime soon?
Alyssa: I hope.
Spencer: We have nothing in the books as of right now but I feel we come out here about every once a year, year and ha alf. So yeah, we’ll be back soon.

Sego is well on their way making the tour back home where the brisket is lacking. They are making sure to stop in their origin city of Provo, Utah where they say they always receive the warmest welcome. Sego’s music can be found on Spotify where you can also listen to their Audiotree Live set. They are also on social media if you’d like to give them a shout out. Just don’t expect it to compare to acknowledgment from Sir Stewart.

Q&A with Bad Pony

Written and photo by Nathaniel Torres

Broadening the scope internationally I spoke with Bad Pony, a five-piece from Down Under. Bad Pony has now traveled to North America twice and is the recipients of Australian Music Week’s prize of 2017.  The band is the result of Jarred and Sam’s need to break out of their previous band’s bluesy genre. Searching for their own sound, they poached a few other front men from different bands, divided the percussion responsibilities, and now showcase their individual talents as Bad Pony.  They brilliantly stitch together an array of genre sounds and tempos within their music, dropping bass and transitioning to a bluesy upbeat one song and then exposing their Aussie roots and relating it to a funky soulful chorus the next. I had the privilege to speak with the entire band which along with Jarred on vocals/percussion and Sam playing guitar/percussion also include Mark on bass, Cron on guitar and Isaac on synths/percussion.  This was the band’s first SXSW appearance.

Had you heard or known about SXSW before coming out?
Mark: Of course!
Jarred: It’s been a dream of mine just to come and see music here. When I was growing up I used to see bands who were quite low-level, then they’d come here and they’d blow up. It seems like a whole world of promise and potential.
Sam: The idea of SXSW in my head is I get to see all these bands that I’ve dreamt about seeing for so long and then walk into a random pub and stumble upon something brilliant I’ve never heard before.

How was your travel out here?
Isaac: We flew into LA. That was killer.
Mark: It’s about 24 hours, in transit, to get from home to Austin so that was two days of our lives spent super excited and anxious.
Jarred: If we could have come straight here that would have been amazing. LAX is like my idea of hell. It’s my least favorite place in the world.

What are your feelings on the atmosphere? Were you well received?
Isaac: The crowds here are just so welcoming. Just really, really up for a good time.
Jarred: Everyone has been so nice to us and looked after us.  Even the accommodation we stayed at, the dude gave us a great deal.
Sam: He just wanted Australian beer.
Jarred: He gave us three extra units in his house for a six pack of beer!

Badges are quite expensive and the word is that artists don’t really make a profit.  What are your feelings on this?
Isaac: We are just artists man. We just play. We don’t know the business side of it.
Jarred: We’re happy to be here – we didn’t have to pay a $1,000, so we’re happy.
Sam: I did.
Jarred: No, we did. We did.
Mark: Much more actually.

Does the festival open doors? What are the benefits of getting out here?
Sam: We had people see us two days ago who were just walk-ins and that’s one of the biggest benefits. They have no idea that you’re about to play and catch your set. Then, 15-minutes later they’re organizing an interview with you.

What were some other things you got into while you were here?
Sam: Everyone I worked with was like, ‘Man you’re going to Texas. It’s all about the barbecue sauce and the meat. And it was absolutely about the barbecue sauce and the meat.  It was everything I hoped it would be and I fell in love

Will you be doing SXSW again or coming back our way sometime soon?
Isaac: In a heartbeat.
Jarred: No brainer.
Isaac: As soon as possible.
Sam: All it takes is an email.

Bad Pony, who easily spent the most time and money (out of the bands interviewed) to get out here, expressed extreme gratitude for the opportunity not just to play but to see other bands performing.  They were recently picked up by Arow Agency and say they never take too much time off from touring stating that they easily become bored when not on the road. The band is high spirited on and off stage expressing there’s nothing better than getting to tour around the world with their best mates. Bad Pony’s music can be found on Spotify but make sure to check out the acoustic videos on YouTube made during their stay here in Austin. For a more in-depth interview including Mark’s SXSW reaction story and Isaac’s PSA keep a lookout for the full video interview.

 

Q&A with Löwin

Written by Nathaniel Torres
Photo by Sarah Vasquez

I spoke with Sara Houser (vocals) of Löwin, an Austin band that debuted SXSW in 2014.  The band regularly plays at establishments such as ABGB, Hotel Vegas and Barracuda. They feature a female vocalist who’s soothing croons accompany a unique blend of guitar melodies and hooks over a solid low end.  Löwin played seven shows this year and their members have been performing unofficial shows for the festival every year since they started calling Austin their home.

Was it difficult getting an official showcase?
Sara: I’ve played SXSW [unofficially] pretty much every year that I’ve lived in Austin, but this is the first year that any of the bands I was in actually made it as an official artist. I think [unofficial shows] are the case for a lot of Austin-based bands. From what I understand Austin-based bands are kind of last to be considered. We were lucky that we fell into a booking agency that helped usher us into SXSW as an official artist.

What are your feelings on the atmosphere? Were you well received?
Sara: All the shows we played were amazing. The crowds at SXSW are always refreshing because people are engaged and they’re moving around and dancing – not like your typical Austin crowd who have seen and done everything. People are generally out to enjoy themselves. It’s not their run-of-the-mill show.

Badges are quite expensive and the word is that artists do not really make a profit.  What are your feelings on this?
Sara: I think a lot of show-goers maybe don’t take into consideration that most of the shows that we’re playing that week are free; meaning we don’t get paid to play. We had a couple of shows that did pay us…not a lot. But all four of us had to ask off work, which for Chris and I…SXSW is a huge money-making week. We didn’t go into it hoping to make a lot of money.  We were just hoping to reach a fan base that, otherwise, wouldn’t have seen us…and that’s what’s cool about it.

Does the festival open doors? What are the benefits of getting out here?
Sara: Exposure for sure. We used it as kind of a testing ground for all of our new material that we’re going to be releasing, shortly now that SXSW is over. We connected with lots of great photographers and lots of new fans – but as far as did we have anybody walking up to us after a set waving contracts at us, no. Being an official SXSW artist is a great thing on a resume for any band. There is a level of legitimacy it brings to the table.

Even for the local veterans of SXSW there was more to learn about the festival stating that reaching out to the industry side of the festival could unlock further potential for the band.  You can catch Löwin at Barracuda March 30 and keep a lookout for that new material to be released. Until then, they have a few singles available on Spotify. Just hold down the “o” on your phone keyboard to get “ö”.

Photos of SXSW 2018

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Photos by Tracy Fuller

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SXSW Films We Want to Watch

Written by Tracy Fuller

This years film festival will highlight 132 features. The screenings are March 9th – 18th. The festival features 44 films from first-time filmmakers, 86 world premieres, plus 11 North American and 5 U.S. Premieres. Talk about a ton of movies to be screened! Imagine what it was like for the programming team, they had to watch 2,458 different films that were submitted personally by filmmakers.

Here are some films we suggest catching:

Jordan Peele’s The Last O.G. in Episodic

John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place

Kay Cannon’s Blockers in Headliners

Andrew Bujalski’s Support The Girls

Lynn Shelton’s Outside In in Narrative Spotlight

Alison Klayman’s Take Your Pills

Tommy Avallone’s The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From A Mythical Man in Documentary Spotlight

Spike Lee’s Pass Over in Festival Favorites.

Spike Lee will follow an increasing number of impressive speakers including Rian Johnson, Darren Aronofsky, and Barry Jenkins, in the nearby SXSW Conference.

Just in case you were wondering, you don’t necessarily have to have an SXSW Film badge to watch any of these films. According to the SXSW website, if seats still remain after the badges enter, single admission tickets will be sold for $15 starting 15 minutes before showtime. Tickets can be purchased from The Paramount Theatre, Vimeo Theater at the Austin Convention Center and ZACH Theatre.

The entire line-up and synopses below were presented by SXSW can be found here

MBPT Calls For SXSW Volunteers

Written by Tracy Fuller

Now that the spring semester is in full swing, Spring Break is looming on some minds. Whether traveling out of town or doing a staycation, Spring Break is typically the time for decompressing.

Conveniently, Spring Break falls during the live music capital of the world’s most famous festival, SXSW.  As many know, SXSW’s Festivals are divided into Interactive, Film, Music, Comedy and Gaming.

Typically SXSW’s Interactive covers a wide array of technology related panels with the potential to form connections for networking.

SXSW’s Film Festival is a mecca for global and national cinema releases. This year has an incredible 132 film features. This would be a good time for film lovers to get in and check out what is premiering. In fact, for any enrolled student, there is a substantial discount that you should probably take advantage of by going here.

ACC’s Music, Business, Performance + Technology (MBPT) department is calling for volunteers to assist in SXSW’s Music Festival. Many times, these volunteers have the opportunity to assist in stage operations throughout the festival. In fact, some previous ACC MBPT students have become Stage Managers due to their experiences as a volunteer. The volunteer call is general, so there are plenty of options for MBPT and other students

For more information please reach out to gschulma@austincc.edu.

Realizing the Potential of College Advising Systems

Story by Jessica Youssefi, Reporter

To better address the issues, successes and future progress of community college education, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted a panel discussion during the 2015 SXSW conference.

The “Unravelling the Advising Maze” panel on March 11 focused on how to better counsel and advise students during their time at community colleges.

Students and educators attended the panel which offered information on ways to fix glitches in the advising system during tense times for students, particularly during registration and finals when the need for advising is high.

The panel began with attendees participating and sharing their input in hypothetical situations. They were asked to fill out student forms about credit hours, transferable credits and how to find that information using only the tools provided. This activity showed the frustrations of students on a daily basis.

In order to address some of the key issues, the degree map was introduced. This tool has been implemented at Austin Community College and serves as a visual tracker allowing students to monitor their progress and see which courses are left until their degree is completed.

ACC student and panelist, Lisa Pham said the degree map is an essential tool of the advising department.

“ It’s a great way for students to see how far along they are and have a visual to see what they are accomplishing,” Pham said. “Having the advisor refer to the degree plan and checking up on you to see how you’re doing in your classes, shows that they care and they want to motivate you toward completing your education.”

The importance of the student/advisor relationship was further addressed by the panel. It described the advisor as often being a student’s best reference point when dealing with frustrations on a personal rather than academic level.

Lluvia Hernandez, a panelist and ACC student, credited a good relationship with her advisor as one of the reasons for her success.

“Once I found counselor Tim Self, who really cared about my success, I felt a lot better about school and taking certain classes,” Hernandez said. “On my end I was struggling a lot through personal and health issues and my advisor gave me the encouragement and guidance I needed — that extra push that was needed.”

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STUDENT OUTREACH — Dr. Jill Biden spends time at the 2015 South by Southwest Education summit with college-student reporters (left to right) Lauren Booker, Noor Alahmadi and Jessica Youssefi. Booker attends Georgia State University and both Alahmadi and Youssefi attend Austin Community College.