South by Southwest starts on March 9, and Sundance had better watch its back.
Although Park City's film festival still reigns supreme as America's preeminent independent film event, Austin's SXSW is running a close second. The reason? It's cooler. And we're not talking the temperature.
Unlike Sundance, SXSW is not only a film festival, but it also sidelines as one of the hottest music festivals of the year. And let's face it; Austin's got a lot more going on than Park City. When SXSW isn't in full swing, the city remains a movie lover's haven thanks to the celebrated Alamo Drafthouse, run by indie film's coolest cat, Tim League. Austin also boasts a thriving music scene all year round, and is commonly referred to as the live music capital of the world.
Oh, and the film festival? It falls in line. The past few years have seen SXSW premiere such indie hits as "Tiny Furniture," "Weekend," "Kill List" and "Attack the Block" -- all progressive, boundary-pushing indies that signal exciting new voices in independent film.
If this year's SXSW film lineup is anything to go by, this will be a defining year for the festival. Here are our picks for the 12 with the most potential.
'21 Jump Street'
By the looks of it, Channing Tatum likes to be a busy guy, and we love him for it. In 2012 he's already delivered two of the best turns of his career in the action romp "Haywire" and the mega-successful weepie "The Vow." This summer he's poised to take over the multiplexes with the male stripper flick "Magic Mike" and the blockbuster sequel to "G.I. Joe." But first he'll appear in this sure-to-be hilarious adaptation of the popular TV series "21 Jump Street." While it appears to have almost nothing to do with the source material, it looks like a gut-busting time. Having newly minted Oscar nominee Jonah Hill by his side doesn't hurt. It premieres at SXSW a week before going wide.
'The Cabin in the Woods'
If early buzz is to be believed, SXSW has one hell of an opening night film in "The Cabin in the Woods," a sci-fi horror mashup from the mind of Joss Whedon ("The Avengers"). The trippy blast stars Chris Hemsworth ("Thor") as one of five friends who go to a remote cabin in the woods where some truly loony stuff begins to go down. The plot's being kept tightly under wraps, but the trailer hints at some "Twilight Zone"-style shenanigans, so consider us psyched.
We love music, but this is taking things a bit too far. In "Electrick Children," newcomer Julia Garner stars as a young Mormon girl who, on her 15th birthday, discovers a forbidden cassette tape with rock music on it. Months after listening to it, she claims to have had (get this) an immaculate conception from listening to the miraculous tracks. Say what? If that synopsis doesn't already have you interested, then we can't help you.
'Fat Kid Rules the World'
We were pleasantly surprised when "Scream" star Matthew Lillard popped up late in "The Descendants," and we're even more pleasantly surprised to see the guy stepping behind the camera with his directorial debut, "Fat Kid Rules the World." Seems like Lillard is following in the steps of his "Descendants" costar George Clooney. His film stars "Terri" breakout Jacob Wysocki as an overweight, suicidal teenager who befriends a high school dropout after trying to take his own life. Sounds heavy. We have high hopes Lillard can pull it off.
'frankie go boom'
Charlie Hunnam ("The Ledge") and "Bridesmaids" star Chris O'Dowd pair up as brothers in this comedy that sports the best title of the bunch. O'Dowd plays the troublemaker of the two, making his brother's life a living hell when he shares his sex tape. This year's new It Girl, Lizzy Caplan -- who turned heads at Sundance with her hilarious turn as a coke-snorting party girl in "Bachelorette" -- plays the unlucky girl caught on tape.
Fans of "Will & Grace" (and really, who isn't?) are sure to lap up "Gayby," a comedy about a straight gal and a gay guy who decide to have a kid together, the old-fashioned way. Things get complicated when the two struggle with what comes after the deed. The film's a feature-length adaptation of an award-winning short of the same name.
Also Check Out: Our 20 Favorite Films from the 2012 Sundance Film Festival
"Tiny Furniture" writer-director Lena Dunham is back at SXSW with her hotly anticipated new HBO show "Girls," produced by comedy wunderkind Judd Apatow. Dunham will be in Austin with the first three episodes. Fans of Dunham's breakout film can expect the same irreverent humor and pathos that made "Tiny Furniture" stand out. The series follows a group of young women trying to make it work in Manhattan, but don't be fooled: "Sex and the City" this is not.
Minnie Driver, where have you been? Glad to have you back. In this British export, Driver ("Good Will Hunting") stars a keen drama teacher who does everything in her power to put on an end-of-year musical version of Shakespeare's "The Tempest." The catch? She wants to use hits of the period (the film's set in 1976, so you get the deal). The early trailer hints at a period British take on "Glee," so color us excited. That, and the singing sounds stellar.
One look at the principal cast of "Killer Joe" and you'll know why we have high hopes. Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Gina Gershon and Thomas Haden Church headline the ensemble in the latest from director William Friedkin ("The Exorcist"). McConaughey is rumored to give his best performances to date as Joe, a crazy Dallas cop who moonlights as a contract killer. Hirsch stars as Joe's latest client. Sounds juicy. Did we mention it was recently slapped with an NC-17 rating?
Legendary musician Bob Marley finally gets the definitive documentary treatment he deserves in "Marley," a sprawling film directed by Oscar winner Kevin Macdonald ("The Last King of Scotland") that delves into the man behind the music. Made with the support of his estate, "Marley" features interviews with close friends, coworkers and family. What we can't wait to see? The rare performance footage.
'See Girl Run'
As longtime fans of the "The Craft " star Robin Tunney, we're psyched to see her take a break from her supporting turn on the hit TV show "The Mentalist" and take on lead duties in this romantic comedy. In "See Girl Run" Tunney plays Emmie, a woman in her thirties who reaches out to her high school boyfriend (funnyman Adam Scott) to spice up her stagnant life.
You might know Swedish director Jonas Akerlund as the man behind some of the most influential music videos of the past two decades -- he's worked with Madonna, U2, Lady Gaga and the Rolling Stones. He's also a strong feature-film director who's already helmed three mostly overlooked flicks (his best known is probably "Spun," starring the late Brittany Murphy). His latest is an offbeat tale based on Chris Millis' novel that boasts one of the oddest casts in recent memory (Billy Crystal, Dolph Lundgren, Johnny Knoxville and Rosie Perez all star).