Cold buckets of rain poured down the first two days of the SXSW film festival in Austin, TX. In other words, this was fine moviegoing weather! While my colleague Adam Vary enjoyed Friday night’s raucous world premiere of Joss Whedon’s Cabin in the Woods, I cozied up with the folks two doors down at the Stateside for the American premiere of the dreamy and weird Electrick Children, which stars radiant newcomer Julia Garner, Liam Aiken and Rory Culkin.
Writer/director Rebecca Thomas’ debut feature film tells the story of a young Mormon girl (Garner, who’s kind of exquisite and raw) who believes she’s had an immaculate conception after listening to a pop song on a rogue cassette tape. She flees her fundamentalist Utah community with her banished brother (Aiken) and the two end up in Las Vegas, hanging around a pack of skateboarding street rats. I went in expecting a minor film and 24 hours later I’m still thinking about the honest tenderness that blooms between Garner and Culkin.
Onwards to the world premiere of The Babymakers, Jay Chandrasekhar’s new sperm comedy about a husband Tommy (Paul Schneider) who can’t seem to knock up his wife Audrey (Olivia Munn, whose sports bra does amazing work). Chandrasekhar (Super Troopers) and his executive producer and star Kevin Heffernan, a big, loud oaf of a fellow, introduced the movie by chugging plastic cups of beer onstage, which aptly set the tone for the somewhat tedious movie that followed. Men jerked off to a foodie magazine cover featuring cantaloupes. There’s a ridiculous heist in which Tommy wants to steal back some semen he donated to a bank years ago. The audience laughed, but to me it seemed polite. I got sleepy. Munn wasn’t in attendance but she made the biggest impression, sending along a letter that riffed off the recent pseudo-scandal involving some hacked sexy-time photos.
Some genuine uplift was in order so today I went to the world premiere of Nelson George’s documentary The Announcement, about Magic Johnson discovering and then revealing to a stupefied world that he was HIV-positive. It wasn’t a perfect movie — Johnson’s sunny and wooden narration in particular seemed a misstep — but still a pleasing one. There’s terrific footage of the effervescent Los Angeles Laker leading up to that fateful day on November 7, 1991, and marvelous interviews with everyone from his wife to his peers to buddies like Arsenio Hall and fans like Chris Rock. It was awful outside, but inside the Vimeo Theater at the Austin Convention Center one’s heart warmed at the sight of Johnson receiving bear hugs from teammates at the 1992 All Star game, months after making an announcement that many presumed was a death sentence. The Announcement will premiere on ESPN on Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.