Fuck whoever decided daylight savings time should fall in the middle of SXSW. Or maybe just fuck daylight savings time in general. Either way, there’s nothing quite like going out after a day of watching films in the darkness and then stumbling home and watching the clock tick forth an hour, mocking you. It’s early enough in SXSW that it’s not a good idea to push forward unless there’s something of absolute importance to see, so I decided to sleep in for most of today, hence the delay of this write-up.
Yesterday was pretty relaxed on the whole anyway, with one good film, one failed entrance to a screening and one total oddity. The good film was The Dwarvenaut, a documentary I predicted in a geek-oriented preview would be the King of Kong of this year’s SXSW and now that I’ve seen it, I’m even more confident in that appraisal. The Dwarvenaut’s story isn’t exactly groundbreaking, it’s another entry in a long line of “person is unnaturally devoted to a very niche craft” documentaries, but its subject, Stefan Pokorny, is so lovable and charming, you can’t help but be entranced. Pokorny is a gifted artist who has made a living not from his more traditional artistic talents but from designing and sculpting miniature figurines and sets for Dungeons & Dragons. But beyond that, he’s also an ambassador for the game, wandering out to bars in Bushwick and convincing strangers to give it a try just through sheer friendliness.
After catching The Dwarvenaut, Kayleigh Hughes and I immediately hopped back in line at the Ritz to see Operator, a film featuring Martin Starr and Mae Whitman that seemed like a low stakes, customer service oriented Her, but neither of us got in. So instead we went in search of parties with free food, our first target being the Sysomos Lounge, a space hosted by a company whose purpose is unknown. After looking it up today, I think I’m even more confused about what they even do. All I know is they had mysteriously set the party up to look like an Ikea-furnished room and that the people in line in front of us selfishly took all of the last remaining tacos for themselves. We drank our requisite free beers and then stumbled into the Take Back the Internet party, which had ample free food and was packed. In a totally bizarre move by the event planners, though, they cut off alcohol service at the bar until after a panel of speakers they had assembled was done, which at first we assumed meant fifteen minutes or maybe half an hour but instead turned out to be an hour and a half. Cue a very frustrated, very hostile crowd antagonizing a handful of exasperated bartenders. I don’t know why you would pay for a party at SXSW and then be baffled by the loudness of a crowd and resort to cutting off alcohol service in the belief that that will somehow make them more respectful, but SXSW is full of clueless companies and planners who never seem to grasp what sort of beast SXSW is. Tip for future Take Back the Internet parties: if you want to host a panel, you should do it in the convention center, not a jam packed downtown BBQ joint.
We ended up giving our drink tickets to a cute older couple with light up top hats because we had to head over to the South Lamar Drafthouse for Baby Bump, our most anticipated film of SXSW. That turned out to be unnecessary on basically all fronts. Nearly no one was in line at the Drafthouse this time, mirroring my experience at SXSW a few years back when Wetlands screened to basically no buzz. Unfortunately, Baby Bump is not on the same level of Wetlands— it’s an extremely rich aesthetic venture that lacks much substance or authorial vision and suffers from a constant need to repeat itself.
Much of what works about the film is due to Kacper Olszewski’s performance as Mickey House, the troubled and confused boy at the center of the film. Olszewski brings a confused intensity to the movie, disappearing into piles of black jackets in an effort to become a shadow. Agnieszka Podsiadlick is also excellent as his mother, but Czekaj doesn’t use her as effectively, instead placing her in a kind of limbo as she repeats movements and poses, with one nude stretch flashed throughout the film to comment on Mickey’s confused sexual feelings. Maybe the repetition of Ms. House’s actions is also commentary on domesticity and the way she wants to restrict Mickey from growing up, but it’s never expressed in a way that makes it clear this is the authorial intent rather than something that can simply be read in the text. There is undoubtedly a lot to unpack with Baby Bump and perhaps with another viewing it would be more effective, but on first viewing it seems to be a great example of a work that shows ample promise. That’s kind of the fun of SXSW Film though, watching movies that might not succeed but at least stand out from anything you’re going to see in theaters the rest of the year.
Morgan Davis sells bootleg queso on the streets of Austin in order to fund Loser City. When he isn’t doing that, he gets complimented and/or threatened by Austin’s musical community for stuff he writes at Ovrld, which he is the Managing Editor of.