How to Watch SXSW: “Wake”

By Robert Sims, Special to

Step 1: Pack your bags for a stay at the Motel California. Director Chad Feehan’s guilt-driven descent into madness.

Step 2: Prepare to always question whether the events unfolding before your eyes are real or imagined. Paul (Josh Stewart) certainly has no idea whether he’s awake, dreaming or worse when he and fiancée Adrienne (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) check into a rundown motel and odd things begin to happen. When a woman from his past appears out of nowhere, Paul comes to believe he’s paying the price for participating in a horrible event that changed many lives. And Adrienne’s fate soon hinges on Paul’s willingness to confess his sins.

Step 3: Put The Sopranos in the back of your mind. Sigler seizes her opportunity to show there’s more to her than The Sopranos by delivering Wake’s liveliest and least-affected performance as the fiancée Paul desperately tries to protect. You have to admire her efforts to make something out of an unwritten role. As the perpetually perturbed Paul, though, Stewart comes across as sleepy than rather worn down by the burden of his guilt. Everyone else—from the nervous motel manager to his slutty wife to the lunatic who tells Paul he’s “got the Devil” in him—gets so caught up in the hysteria surrounding Paul that their over-the-top theatrics prove distracting to the point of annoyance.

Step 4: Accept that Feehan’s script is better than his direction. He knows how to concoct a nightmarish scenario that’s filled with plenty of strange characters and creepy moments. Unfortunately, he allows the slow-paced Wake to plod its inevitable conclusion. Then again, it’s not too hard to figure out what’s going on with Paul, so you can doze off for an hour or so and wake up in time to watch Feehan push Paul’s panic button one last time.

Level of difficulty in watching Wake: If you know your Twilight Zone, you know where Wake’s heading. Still, Feehan shows such promise as a writer that you’re left wondering how much better Wake would have been had an experienced director and a better cast gotten their hands on his script.

How to Watch: “The Runaways”

By Robert Sims, Special to

Step 1: Accept that you’re not going to witness the whole story behind the rise and fall of the original all-girl rock band. The Runaways should have been called Salt ‘N Pepper — the nicknames for Cherie Currie (played by Dakota Fanning) and Joan Jett (played by Kristen Stewart) — considering this by-the-numbers rock biography concentrates solely on the relationship between the jailbait-age singer and her done-up-with-leather guitarist. Indeed, director Floria Sigismondi doesn’t even acknowledge that The Runaways recorded two albums after Currie departed and leaves you with the impression that Currie gave rock ‘n’ roll when she, in fact, went solo and tried her hand at acting. The latter is a surprise considering The Runaways is based on Currie’s memoir, Neon Angel.

Step 2: Realize you have seen this all before. Sigismondi does nothing to distinguish The Runaways from previous depictions of the lives and excesses of our most beloved and most tragic rock and pop icons. This is a cautionary tale fueled by sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Everything that you expect to happen happens, from the highs of newfound fame and glory, to the lows of addiction and infighting. And you would think that a music video veteran like Sigismondi would shoot the requisite concert and performance scenes in fresh and thrilling ways; instead, such Runaways classics as “Cherry Bomb” and “Dead End Justice” rely solely on the brash energy Fanning and Stewart bring to the stage.

Step 3: It’s all about the acting. Fanning continues to impress as she makes a Jodie Foster-like bid to be taken seriously, inching closer to adulthood. While Fanning struggles to replicate the undeniable force of Currie’s sexuality, she does throw herself into a demanding role that requires her to truly get inside the mind of a young girl unable to handle all the sudden pleasures and pressures of the rock life. And there are times when it’s quite uncomfortable watching Fanning — who must have been 15 at the time of shooting — strutting on stage like a stripper or making out with her New Moon costar Stewart. As Jett, a stoic Stewart often lets her guitar speak for her, but it is through her that we come to understand the damage that fame and fortune inflicted on these teen idols.

Step 4: Hope someone will make a film about Kim Fowley. The most intriguing relationship depicted in The Runaways isn’t between Currie and Jett but between the band and their producer, the irrepressible Kim Fowley. He’s portrayed in The Runaways as a smart and brilliant music impresario, who was willing to push everyone to the edge in order to sell his artists and their songs. You sit through The Runaways wondering how long these young girls will take Fowley’s abusive and controlling ways. As Fowley, Michael Shannon may come across as Svengali in glam-rock makeup, but there’s logic in the madness that he exudes and creates. That’s not to say you would want to entrust your daughter to this strange and bewildering master manipulator. But there’s clearly more to Fowley than The Runaways lets on, and it’s not hard to imagine that he would make a more captivating subject for a fan that the band he managed.

Level of difficulty in watching The Runaways: Even if you don’t know The Runaways’ history or their songs this movie will still seem overly familiar. But at least Fanning, Stewart and Shannon make beautiful music together.

How to Interview: “Get Low” Cast

By Robert Sims, Special to

Felix Bush doesn’t fear being late to his own funeral — because he plans to be there. Just not in the casket.

In the bittersweet 1930s dramedy Get Low, Robert Duvall’s cantankerous hermit ends 40 years of seclusion when he decides to make his funeral arrangements. He wants to attend his funeral party ostentatiously to hear the strange stories that people have spread about him over the years. Bill Murray is the funeral director responsible for getting the townsfolk to the funeral, Friday Night Lights’ Lucas Black is his assistant, and Sissy Spacek is a woman from Duvall’s distance past.

Duvall, Murray and Spacek joined director Aaron Schneider and screenwriter Chris Provenzano to discuss Get Low following its SXSW screening.

Step 1: Cast Duvall and the rest will follow

Robert Duvall: “It was a very unique piece, a Southern tale. My wife and I were on vacation near her family in northern Argentina. I just sat on the veranda of this rustic hotel overlooking the Anders and I just went over the part, over the part, over the part. That’s the only way I prepared because the writing was so good it led you to wherever you wanted to go. It’s a beautiful life, a true Southern tale. It was a great experience. It was an honor to play this part.”

Aaron Schneider: “Bobby was on the project before I came aboard. It was a project he had shown interest in and he was kinda counting on us to come through for him. It took us quite a while to raise the money — close to four or five years of Dean [Zanuck, the producer] and I working together. Once the project was on its feet financially, I immediately thought of Sissy. She was the first person I went to. We had a lovely four-hour meeting to talk about the script. Then it took four years to get the film made. I was really pinching myself when it got made because it was a labor of love that took a long time to get off the ground. The strangest thing about it, there was this five-year journey, and boom!, the gun goes off. The cameras start to roll and 24 days later and $7 million later, it was in the can. There was definitely times in the editing room where I would go get a bite to eat and come back and turn around and look at the plasma — I edited in my house, we couldn’t afford an editing room — and there would be Bobby Duvall in a close-up or Bill Murray, and I would go, Are these people really in my movie?”

Bill Murray: We kept saying that a lot, we kept telling him how lucky he was. We had to drive it and pound it into him.

Step 2: Know how to act against Duvall

Murray: “That’s not really a performance, that’s what Robert is really like. There’s no way you can play straight to it because if you believe that someone like really exists on the planet you’re going to be dead like that. It was like lucky. It was a really nice piece of editing. We really threw it out there on every take. It’s very easy to play it straight but with these actors you let it go each time. Let’s notice that the director also edited the film. It’s not a small achievement. You can be funny in a take, you can do something, but it’s really his work that shows the root of the performance. He really did a nice job.”

Step 3: Strike the right balance between humor and drama

Murray: “The humor kept the energy bouncing up until the final scene. Where you’re going is that final scene with Sissy and Bob at the end. It’s worth the wait. If it were all kinda heavy until then, it would be kinda [let’s out a deflated sound]. Laughing all the way, you’re available for that scene. That’s what you want.”

Step 4: Turn fact into fiction

Chris Provenzano: “The original premise came from a friend of mine who basically married into the real-life family that is partly portrayed by Mr. Murray. The very basis of the story was factual. There was very little in the historical record as to what had actually happened. All we knew that there was an old hermit, that he came in and asked for a funeral, and in fact had one and people from all over the South showed up. Beyond that, we had to invent the story.”

Step 5: Find the perfect location

“We looked for places that were lost in time that we could dress because we didn’t have a lot of money. We didn’t build a lot of sets. We went to a lot of locations and dressed them. It was very tough finding an isolated woods with a little cabin in the middle of Georgia without going too far out of town. One of our location scouts found this Civil War park preserve, which is a big chunk of land preserved in the middle of Atlanta. He was walking through, taking pictures, and found this beautiful little cabin that one of the rangers had found and restored and had asked the park if he could store there. It was major luck to find both the woods and the house because we figured Bush would have learned to build a cabin from his father or grandfather back in the late 1800s. He was a carpenter, so it was a big bit of serendipity.”

How to Watch SXSW: “Get Low”

By Robert Sims, Special to

Step 1: Don’t get Low. Aaron Schneider’s remarkable directorial debut is a beautifully told Southern folk tale of hope and redemption that never fails to amuse or inspire. It also features such fortifying performances by Robert Duvall and Bill Murray that you hope to hear their names called when next year’s Oscar nominations are announced.

Step 2: Look past the gimmicky premise. Set in 1930s Tennessee, this dramedy stars Duvall as a grumpy old hermit who makes his first trip to town after 40 years in seclusion. Feeling his mortality, Duvall’s Felix Bush wants to make his funeral arrangement. Only he wants his funeral party to be held while he’s alive. And he wants everyone in town to attend—not because he wants to say his goodbyes, but because he wants to hear every out-there story they have about him, whether they’re true or not. There’s much more to Get Low than watching funeral director Frank Quinn (Murray) and his associate Buddy (Friday Night Lights’ Lucas Black) tear out their hair trying to accommodate Felix’s odd request. Felix harbors a dark secret, one that Schneider reveals in riveting fashion. This lends Get Low an air of mystery that grips you until Felix pours out his heart and soul to more strangers than you can count.

Step 3:
Enjoy being in the company of Duvall and Murray. Get Low makes you wonder why Duvall and Murray have waited so long to work together. You never quite know what’s going to happen when the two walk into the same the room. Initially looking like Grizzly Adams on a bad hair day, Duvall masterfully command your attention with a cantankerousness that allows Felix to conceal the pain that’s left him emotionally crippled for four decades. Murray, on the other hand, uses his dry wit as a mechanism to gradually humanize Duvall’s social misfit. Sure, Frank’s happy to make a buck, but Murray thankfully avoids making him just another oily salesman. He imbues Frank with a sense of decency that’s easy to admire and respect. Duvall and Murray feed off each so well that it’s a joy to watch these old pros verbally spar. If Black seems very quiet in comparison, that’s because his job is to serve as our eyes and ears. Sissy Spacek, as a widower who was once involved with Felix, beings additional pathos to the proceedings.

Step 4: RSVP for the funeral party of the year. Much of the fun to be found in Get Low comes from watching Felix reintegrate himself into a society that once regarded him with hatred and suspicion. Schneider employs the gentle humor that surrounds the funeral party arrangements to transform Felix in our eyes from an object of ridicule to a victim of his own tragic circumstances. But by design, the funeral party itself is less a celebration of a misunderstood man’s life but an excuse to clear a conscience before God and all others present.

Level of difficulty in watching Get Low: Nothing could be finer than watching Duvall and Murray at their very best. More important, Schneider shows such great promise with Get Low that you can’t wait to see what he will do next.

How to Interview: Eulogize “The Runaways”

By Robert Sims, Special to

Underage and over the top, The Runaways proved that women could just as easily enjoy the excesses of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Led by singer Cherie Currie and guitarist Joan Jett, The Runaways exploded with the 1976 hit single “Cherry Bomb” and demonstrated that an all-girl teenage band could rock just as hard and partake in self-destructive behavior as any of their male counterparts. Currie left after three albums to pursue a solo and an acting career in such films as Foxes and The Twilight Zone: The Movie, and The Runaways fell apart soon after.

New Moon costars Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart portray Currie and Jett, respectively, in The Runaways, director Floria Sigismondi’s recount of the band’s rise and fall.

At a Q&A following the SXSW screening of The Runaways, Fanning and Stewart joined Currie to talk about turning The Runaways’ cautionary tale into a film.

Step 1: Tell the story from the perspective of singer Cherie Currie and guitarist Joan Jett

Floria Sigismondi: “When I got the call, they had already gotten the rights to Cherie, Joan and Kim [Fowley, The Runaways’ brilliant but manipulative producer] and Sandy [West, the band’s late drummer], and the other girls didn’t want to be involved. So that’s who I had to work with. Meeting them, they were nicknamed Salt and Pepper, and I was just really drawn to the two of them as the main story. So I mostly focused on the two of them. Just working with the ideas, and everything that had happened, I knew what would stick and what wouldn’t just by the story I wanted to tell, which is basically their friendship in this world and how different they are and how they came together and how special that was.”

Step 2: Know what to edit and condense

Sigismondi: “It was a rollercoaster. I was dancing all kinds of lines of what was important and what could the story possibly live without. It’s hard to capture someone’s life in an hour and 40 minutes, never mind their relationships. It’s more than just one life; you’ve got many other people’s lives. You’ve got real people, still alive. You’ve got fans looking at it in a different way. It’s just finding that line of what characterizes them more than the actual events.”

Step 3: Brush up on rock history

Dakota Fanning: “A lot of people my and Kristen’s age and generation aren’t really familiar with The Runaways. So when I read [the script] I immediately went on YouTube and looked at the Live in Japan videos, and specifically of the band performing ‘Cherry Bomb’ and I watched Cherrie performing ‘Cherry Bomb.’ I think that moment was when I realized that I wanted to do that. When I had my initial meeting to do that, I don’t think I would have been the first person people would have thought to do this role just because people think of me as a lot younger just because I’ve been acting for a long time. I’m really lucky that Floria and everyone believe in me that I could to do it and I hope that I did. So I think watching that video I really drawn to it and I wanted to do something different than I’ve before and that’s what I love about being an actor, being able to transform yourself.”

Kristen Stewart: “I said yes as soon as someone said they’re making a movie with Joan Jett and that’s one of the parts. I said, ‘Yes, totally, I’ll play it.’ There’s a million reasons you do a movie. You make an impulsive decision about something that moves you or whatever and realize what an insane responsibility you now have. Then you want to pass out. I didn’t know about The Runaways, that was mainly the thing, and it’s nice to be able to deliver that story to people our age because they should know. I got to know Joan really well, and I realized there’s a lot more to her than I saw. I really liked Joan.”

Step 4: Already know how to play the guitar

Stewart: “I did, thank God because I only had two weeks to learn songs because we finished New Moon very close to the start of the movie.”

Step 5: Get the moves right

Fanning: “During those two weeks we had band rehearsals and all of the Runaways girls got together and got to know each other and got used to being onstage together. For me, I had to sing the songs, so I had a few voice lessons and I worked with Cherie on the songs. Also, performing ‘Cherry Bomb’ was a really big deal to me and I wanted to do it exactly right. I had to practice that as well.”

Stewart: “We both had Joan and Cherrie by our side all the time. Both of them were telling us they would leave us alone as soon as we didn’t want them to be around anymore. We were telling them that as soon as we overstep boundaries or whatever we will not do that. We could to talk to them. We learned how to play and we got to talk to them about stuff.”

Step 6: Forget your fear of singing

Fanning: “That was one of the trepidations I had about doing it just because I have never thought of myself as a singer…. So when I knew I had to sing, I was really nervous about that I was self-conscious and scared. I found that the only way I can do it is if I’m playing someone else, and if I’m hiding behind a character. So Cherrie, that costume, and all that gave me the strength to be able to do it.”

Step 7: Watch Foxes

Sigismondi: “I looked at that. It was the closest thing I could get to [CC’s] face at that age, so I definitely looked at that. And I think … it’s the closet thing to [CC’s] personality to the person that [she] was at the time.

Cherie Currie: Annie was really me. I started that film right off the heels of The Runways, and I actually told Dakota—because right then, I wasn’t boisterous and in your face like I am now that I’m old. But I told Dakota to look at Foxes because that was where I really was. Annie was me. I don’t know how to act.”

Step 8: Enjoy the experience

Curie: “I’ve been working with Joan since Floria wrote the script…. It’s a dream come true. We got to go into the recording studio to record together for the first time in 35 years. It was as if time stood still. We’ve got so much to be grateful for.”

How I Will Remember SXSW 2010

By Robert Sims, Special to

This was my first time attending SXSW, and I saw and heard many things at the various panels and Q&A that I will stay with me for a long time. Here are a few of the moments that stood out for good and bad reasons.

Wondering whether anyone is funnier than Bill Murray. The former Saturday Night Live cutup naturally had the audience at the Paramount in stitches during Get Low’s post-screening Q&A. When someone asked how director Aaron Schneider and his cast were able to make a 1930s dramedy that was both touching and hilarious, Murray immediately replied, “There’s a couple of you I’d like to touch, but most of you I’m going to be hilarious with.”

Making a mental note that I should never ask Dakota Fanning to sing in public. Starring as jailbait-aged singer Cherie Currie in The Runaways, Dakota Fanning’s required to perform the 1970s all-girl rock band’s hit “Cherry Bomb,” wearing a lingerie set that would make Jenna Jameson blush. But that doesn’t mean the 16-year-old Fanning’s willing to sing “Cherry Bomb” — or any song for that matter — in front of an audience of 1,200 people. “See the thing with me about singing, that was one of the trepidations I had about doing [The Runaways] just because I have never thought of myself as a singer and specifically my sister is a really good singer, so I’ve always been the one who wasn’t a good singer and she was,” Fanning said following the screening. “So when I knew I had to sing, I was really nervous about that I was self-conscious and scared. I found that the only way I can do it is if I’m playing someone else, and if I’m hiding behind a character. So Cherie, that costume, and all that gave me the strength to be able to do it. You ask me that, it kinda makes me want to pass out a little bit. I’m just a little afraid I would do that. I’m sorry.” That said, Fanning’s more than happy to show you how far she’s perfecting Currie’s trademark stage tricks with a mic.

Feeling embarrassed for Jonah Hill and John C. Reilly. You would think a hometown crowd — one that is renowned for their love for and acknowledge of film — would come up with some original and meaningful questions for the directors of Cyrus, former Austin-ites Mark and Jay Duplass. After all, Mark Duplass had giddily declared before the screening of their hilarious character study that they had “been waiting for years to have to have one of our movies screen at the Paramount on Saturday night.” Instead, everyone waited so long for someone to ask a worthy question they started berating in jest anyone who dared waste their time. “This is the worst Q&A ever,” Hill exclaimed.

Hearing Ryan Phillippe make a half-hearted public appeal to star in Captain America. Phillippe didn’t say much during the MacGruber panel, though he admitted “It’s totally fun” when asked by moderator and Saturday Night Live writer Akiva Schaffer how it feels to be the MacGyver spoof’s most good-looking cast member. But a panel attendee did query him about whether he would want to play Captain America in Marvel’s upcoming comic-book epic. “Yeah, I would,” Phillippe said with the all enthusiasm of someone who knew the part wasn’t going to be his. “My son would love it. He’s 6 years old. I’m really into it. We’ll see what happens. It would be fun.” To be honest, Phillippe would make a better Captain America than Chris Evans.

Suffering along with Elektra Luxx director Sebastian Gutiérrez. Poor guy. Projector problems at the Paramount ruined the world premiere of his Women in Trouble sequel. A real trouper, Gutiérrez spent 30 minutes onstage entertaining a clearly annoyed audience with his self-effacing jokes and colorful anecdotes. He even brought out four cast members — including his partner Carla Gugino and Malin Akerman — to put smiles on our faces. Unfortunately, the projector could not be fixed so we were dismissed an hour into the film. An obviously apologetic SXSW—which premiered Women in Trouble last year—did right by Gutiérrez by scheduling two additional Elektra Luxx screenings. I’m glad I caught the last showing: vastly superior to the Pedro Almodóvar-ish Women in Trouble, Elektra Luxx offers a very funny and poignant look at the continuing trials and tribulations of Gugino’s pregnant porn star.

Wanting to prescribe Michel Gondry antidepressants. OK, I forgive the French director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for dragging himself late to a Q&A before a packed house. It was held the morning after the clocks went forward, so no one was at their best. But Gondry seemed positively suicidal when he recalls, watching in sadness, the audience members who fled before the end of the previous evening’s screening of his documentary The Thorn in the Heart. “Who walked away?” Gondry moaned barely a minute into the Q&A. “I was just there. I saw people walk away. I always want to punish them. Sometimes, when they go to the bathroom and come back, I go, ‘Yes’!” He also seemed quite dejected when people left the Q&A early to catch another panel or to go see a film.

Wishing Red White & Blue director Simon Rumley had an opportunity to answer a question. Rumley’s thought-provoking psychological chiller — which stars Noah Taylor as an ex-military man who resorts to violence when a friend goes missing — contained so many disturbing moments that it left one audience member in such emotional distress that she could not wait to ask the English director what his intentions were with the film. The woman, who seemed to have a problem with the film’s depiction of violence against the female lead, kept interrupting Rumley and eventually got into such a heated exchanged with him and Taylor’s costar Amanda Fuller, that she was told to “fuck off” by the film’s executive producer Tim League. It just so happens that League’s also the owner of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, where Red White & Blue was screened. League later apologized for his remark, but the women had already bolted. “She was summarily asked to leave,” Rumley told me the next day. “That was interesting. She asked the question. I kinda answered and then she started shouting a little bit. Then Amanda took over and Tim took over. I answer every question seriously that is asked of me. She did not completely seem to understand the film. She asked the question, and I think she started crying. And when she started crying, I thought, ‘Something’s gone on there, she has a personal history that has relevance, that was brought out by the film.’ It’s a film, it’s something I created, I wrote it. It’s a film that I intended to affect people on an emotional level, so I guess in that respect it worked. I’m not trying to denigrate any of the characters. For me, and the actors, one of the main things is we invest the characters—even though they do bad things—we invest them with a warmth. My job as a director and as a writer is to try and get—if at least not sympathize with the characters—at least empathize with the characters. It would be interesting to know what that woman’s story was. It seemed a touch a nerve.”

How to Watch: “Repo Men”

Step 1: Realize it’s similar but different. Repo Men is a thrilling, bloody, organ-ripping sci-fi spin on a familiar theme.

Step 2: Don’t be late. I say familiar because Repo Men works on a plot device we’ve seen many times before. It’s set in a world in which advanced technology has progressed and artificial organs are now easily made and readily available to the mass pop. No more need to wait for a donor. The organization who has created this business, The Union, can sell you a heart, a liver, a kidney — for a nominal fee of $600+K. And if you can’t pay it all up front, then they can work out a payment plan. Catch is, if you are at all delinquent in your payments – if you are, say, 90 DAYS late – then the Union has the authority to repossess said organs.

Step 3: Enter the Repo Men. It’s their jobs to track down those who haven’t paid and rip those organs right on out of their bodies. Right there in their living rooms, their cars, wherever they get caught. It’s all legal; the person signed the contract. Now here comes the part that you’ll recognize: Remy (Jude Law) is one such Repo Man, who, along with his long-time partner Jake (Forest Whitaker), is very good at what he does. Cool, efficient, only doing it cause “a job’s a job.” Except when an accident leaves Remy with an artificial heart, and he can’t make the payments due to his sudden lack of enthusiasm for said job, the shoe is suddenly on the other foot. Now, he’s the one being hunted – and by his very best friend, no less. You’ve seen this, right? Luckily, Repo Men doesn’t fall into any major pitfalls because just as you think you’ve got it all figured out, the film twists on you. Based on the novel “The Repossession Mambo” by Eric Garcia (who also co-wrote the screenplay), Remy, of course, meets up with others who are also on the run, and even falls for one, played by sexy Brazilian actress Alice Braga (I Am Legend). But then the final confrontation looms ahead.

Step 4: Gotta love Jude these days. With his terrific performance as Dr. Watson in “Sherlock Holmes,” Law is on a roll, but doesn’t have to really stretch in Repo Men much. Still, he sure looks good wielding those knives – and steaming it up with Braga. I mean, they reeeeally are hot together, even if they are running and sweating and getting the crap beat out of them. Whitaker is always good, in whatever he does, and playing the foul-mouthed Repo Man seems just as natural as playing the father in the comedy Our Family Wedding. Liev Schreiber has the inevitable task of playing the corporate bad guy whose only interest is in the bottom line.

Step 5: Get ready for another twist ending. Directed by newcomer Miguel Sapochnik, it’s got that whole sci-fi, Gattica vibe with kick-ass and incredibly gory visuals. It’s not for the faint of heart, that I can promise you. The blood flows freely in Repo Men. Then the last half hour comes on like a perfect storm and sends you on one doozy of a ride. Not sure why the latest trend in movies is to throw in some surprise ending, but the one in Repo Men really works.

Level of difficulty in watching Repo Men: Kinda hard to watch the makeshift surgical “operations,” but definitely worth the ticket price.

How to Love a Scene: “The Sixth Sense”

Although this isn’t a new idea, I’ve decided to institute my own “love that scene” motif since there are so, so many that I adore — and today, it’s from The Sixth Sense. Just watched it again on cable (before Lost … to you know … get me in the mood) and the one scene that gets me EVERY TIME comes towards the end, in which little Cole Sear —  played so completely hauntingly by Haley Joel Osment — decides to tell his compassionate, worried mother, Lynn — played convincingly by Toni Collette — his “secret.” You know, the one about seeing dead people and all.

They are in a traffic jam, due to an accident ahead in which someone has died. Cole knows this because the dead woman is standing by his side of car, bleeding from the head. He says to his mother he sees ghosts, and she looks at him full of even more concern and fear that her young son may actually be insane. He tells her he also has talked to “Grandma,” who, of course, has passed on. Cole says Grandma wants her to know that she DID watch her daughter in her dance recital, even though Lynn thought she hadn’t because they had gotten into a fight. Lynn starts crying.

Then comes the kicker. Cole says that Grandma also wanted to answer the question Lynn had asked at her grave site. “She said ‘Every day.’ What did you ask her, Mama?,” Cole implores. Through choked up tears, Lynn replies, “I asked her if she was proud of me.” They hug and dissolve into more tears.

Nope, can’t hold them back either.

How to Survive SXSW

I’d like to introduce Robert Sims to you. I met Robert working at, when he was the news editor there, and I learned a LOT from him as a writer. We have both since moved on (thank god), and Robert has worked for Star magazine as well as Palm Beach Daily News and several websites including and Shock Til You Drop.

And now I’m lucky enough to have him contribute to my site. He’s at the SXSW Film Festival at the moment, so stay tuned for lots of coverage and reviews. Here’s his first installment:

1. Know the weather. Pack a sweater and a light jacket if you’re heading to Austin for the SXSW Film Conference and Festival. The mornings and evenings can still be a little chilly here in Texas Hill Country, but things do warm up by lunchtime and you’ll be happy to walk to screenings in just a short-sleeved shirt.

2. Create your account. This is a terrific way to plan ahead. It allows you to generate your own day-to-day SXSW schedule. You can prevent scheduling conflicts—there are 134 features showing, some at the same time as panels featuring such directors as Quentin Tarantino, David Gordon Green and Michel Gondry—and work out how much time you have between screenings and panels. There also is a message board if you feel like touching base with other SXSWers.

3. Line up early at Paramount Theatre. This historic venue in downtown Austin boasts 1,200 seats, so you should be able to seat for the likes of Kick-Ass, MacGruber and The Runaways. But arrive as early as possible or you may not get a decent view of the screen. Certain orchestra seats toward the end of the rows that partially blocked views.

4. Line up early for any Alamo screenings. There are few better movie-going experiences watching a crowd-pleaser while kicking with some nachos and beer at these venues that serve food with your film. The problem is, film fans love to crowd into the Alamo theaters. So arrive at least one hour before your film starts—even if you don’t think it’s going to be popular. You’re competing against an educated audience in Austin, so they already know what films are worth seeing even if there’s little to no hype. The Alamo Ritz is within walking distance from the Paramount Theatre, but you’ll need to go by car to get to the Alamo South Lamar.

5. Relax and enjoy yourself. SXSW puts on one of the coolest film festivals in the United States. Chances are, you’re not going see every film or attend every panel, simply because there’s too much going on at SXSW. But if you have any additional questions about surviving SXSW, visit