Our critic's picks from the annual Austin arts festival – Kankakee Daily Journal


The South by Southwest Film Festival, part of the larger conglomerate festival known as SXSW, now in its 24th year, takes place in Austin, Texas, and ended on Sunday. This 10-day festival celebrates music, comedy and film drawing more than 72,000 participants. What’s the draw? Well, barbecue, of course, but also world premiere films, A-list movie stars, directors and writers all converging on this bustling little city.

I was lucky to be able to cover this high energy film festival on behalf of the Daily Journal and bring back the highlights for you. Many of the recommended films will be opening theatrically in the coming weeks and months, and others you’ll be able to find on Netflix and other digital platforms soon.

The state of Illinois was well-represented at SXSW. Nick Offerman, of “Parks and Recreation” fame, is from Minooka, and co-stars with Sam Elliott in the standout film “The Hero,” opening June 9. Offerman personally extended his well-wishes to Kankakee saying, “I will send my greetings to everyone from Kankakee, the athletes at Bradley Bourbonnais Community High School … and also all the way down to Champaign Urbana, Rantoul, Marsailles, all you guys, I send my very best.” Brett Gelman (Kroll Show) hails from the Highland Park area and gives us a spectacular performance in the off-kilter dark docu-comedy “Drib.” And Sarah Wayne Callies (“The Walking Dead”) began her successful life in LaGrange before moving to Hawaii. She co-stars alongside Josh Duhamel in the dark, societal reality TV game show film, “This Is Your Death,” directed by Giancarlo Esposito (“Breaking Bad).

Digital movie viewing platforms, such as Shudder, Netflix and Amazon, are a huge presence at SXSW. This week on Netflix, you’ll be able to stream the docudrama “The Most Hated Woman in America” starring Melissa Leo as Madalyn Murray O’Hair (Leo) who began the American Atheist organization. It’s a crime thriller and history lesson all in one. Also on March 24 is Shudder’s “Prevenge,” a dark comedy/horror film starring, written and directed by Alice Lowe. It’s a gruesome and sometimes ironically humorous tale about a pregnant woman who receives messages from her unborn baby to kill particular people. Netflix has a second winner at SXSW with Joe Swanberg and Jake Johnson’s film “Win It All.” Filmed in Chicago, this story about gambling addiction is Swanberg’s best yet, filled with humor, love and the high-stakes game of poker. See this on April 7.

Due out in theaters soon are Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis’ dramedy “Colossal” (April 7) about life and a monster in Seoul, Korea, (trust me on this one) and Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey’s high-paced shoot-’em-up film with an accent on music “Baby Driver” on Aug. 11. While not highly recommended, the “Jane Bond” style of film “Atomic Blonde” starring Charlize Theron arrives in theaters on July 28.

In what now is a seemingly old-fashioned sense, there still are films at the festival which are looking to be picked up for distribution so we can all see them. SXSW has a wonderful array from which to choose: “The Light of the Moon,” “Maineland,” “44 Pages,” “Hot Summer Nights,” “Easy Living” and “A Bad Idea Gone Wrong” should all be on your radar.

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