Wednesday, March 19th

Exhaustion and Mixed Emotions at SXSW

No matter how much I try to prepare in the weeks leading up to SXSW, it’s always a scramble. Part of it is the nature of the conference and surrounding events; there’s little notice as to what’s really going on. I earnestly RSVP to everything I can in the hopes that I’ll make it into the must-do events, all the while knowing that I’ll never keep up with my overly ambitious schedule. The invites come later and later, so being flexible, yet prepared, is crucial. The day I had planned to really wander around and check out the free events surrounding Interactive, it was cold, rainy, and miserable. Craft Taste and I went to a fun party hosted by Pinterest at La Barbecue. Food and drinks were free and we checked out the Pinnebago and listened to a female punk band. We missed Grumpy Cat, the Game of Thrones exhibit, and countless other things. We walked around, saw some stuff, and went home soaking wet. The day I brought my DSLR to take the really good pictures? A total wash.

Pinnebago

We made it into the first Kimmel taping and saw Seth Rogen and Snoop Dogg. Although we were seated way up high in the balcony, it was a fun experience and I was glad we went. I especially enjoyed Jimmy’s house band Cleto and the Cletones. Even more than the musical guest White Denim.

Jimmy Kimmel in Austin

Later, I won tickets for the opening night of the iTunes Festival. Winning didn’t mean we got to skip the very long line, but once inside the Moody Theater we were afforded a spot close to the stage amongst a crowd equally excited to be there. But no one was as excited to be there as Imagine Dragons, whose energy and and enthusiasm were through the roof.

Imagine Dragons in the Moody Theater for iTunes Festival at SXSW

Imagine Dragons in the Moody Theater for iTunes Festival at SXSW

Imagine Dragons in the Moody Theater for iTunes Festival at SXSW

Coldplay was grown up and polished, putting on a flawless performance under a dazzling light show. No bullshit on stage or in the crowd. It was ideal.

Coldplay in the Moody Theater for iTunes Festival at SXSW

Coldplay in the Moody Theater for iTunes Festival at SXSW

Coldplay in the Moody Theater for iTunes Festival at SXSW

I took advantage of my official SXSW Guest Pass and checked out the marketplace one day. It was clearly the tail end for the vendors, but it’s one of my favorite conference expos and I lingered at the booths with live music and good swag. I’m always amazed at how grand some of the booths are. I especially love checking out the other countries’ offerings.

SXSW Marketplace

Perhaps the coolest event we went to was the Heartbreakers Ball. (It didn’t hurt that we were chauffeured in a stretch limo and given VIP badges.) It was our first time visiting Willie Nelson’s ranch at Luck Texas. The ranch is more of a set for an Old Western with a chapel, a jail, a saloon, and other buildings. I loved that much of the property is used to foster horses. We watched people line up for free tattoos and drinks made with Midnight Moonshine in between the rocking sets. Willie and friends took the stage at the end of the night and despite the late hour and the cold, Willie was fantastic. I don’t know if all that pot-smoking has served as a preservative, but his voice was strong and smooth, unaffected by his many years. It was quite a show.

Willie Nelson's Luck, Texas

Willie Nelson and Friends at SXSW Heartbreakers Banquet

The aftermath of the tragic drunk driving accident that killed three people left a dark cloud over Austin. The city reeled from the news and shed tears for the lives lost and the news gained international attention. There’s no denying that SX is forever changed. We will remember and reflect on this every year. Criticisms arose and people questioned whether the excess of free flowing booze is hurting the intention of the festival. It seemed that the louder criticisms were directed towards the overblown commercialism of the conference and surrounding events. It seems that the sponsors are running the show now and no one is happy about it. In the days following SX, Austin is usually enjoying a tired but happy afterglow. This year we are collectively wincing at all the bad press and trying to figure out how the hell this happened. I predict big changes for next year.

I’m proud to live in Austin. I love that for two weeks every year we become the center of the universe and celebrate artistry and intelligence. South by Southwest celebrates the future and creates history. I hope we are able to strike a better balance in the years to come, retaining the indie spirit on which the festival was built, while letting sponsors be a part of the action in a more authentic way.

What are your thoughts on SXSW 2014?

Monday, February 17th

How to Get Through SXSW

It’s never too early to start getting ready for South by Southwest. In Austin, it’s our next big season after the holidays. We mark time by it, fretting about what we need to accomplish before South By and what we don’t want to think about until after South By.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis at SXSW

For those that haven’t attempted it yet, I want to reassure you that you can fully partake in the excitement of the conference without paying for a badge. Badges top out at about $1700 for the walk-up rate of Platinum badge, and are cheaper the earlier you buy. The cheapest it gets is for a Film badge at $500, but you have to buy it in September of the previous year. So…yeah. It’s expensive.

Fear not! There are tons of free events. Waaay too many to list here and far too many to predict in advance. The key to South By is to be available, be prepared, and roll with the punches. Be content to miss certain things and just enjoy the moment you’re in. For each amazing show you see, you are missing 50 more. It’s hard not to get wrapped up in the hype of secret shows, which is big part of South By. But you can’t do everything, so make peace with it or you’ll drive yourself crazy. The worst thing you can do is run from place to place, trying to get in and spending more time standing in line than doing anything else. So, without further ado, here are my tips:

Be Available

1. First of all, you have to get yourself where you need to be. This is the time to acquaint yourself with public transportation, ride your bike, or hitch a ride with friends because parking SUCKS.

2. For Interactive (March 7-11) you want to be downtown. This is the week of the best freebies. All the tech companies are giving out fun swag, free drinks, and throwing parties. Bars and restaurants will turn into branded lounges. Go in, get a drink, pick up a free JamBox and learn about SoundCloud or Bing or Samsung or Foursquare.

Doppelgangez at SXSW

3. Have your C-list email address handy for when you need to sign up for random shit. Be prepared for everyone you walk by to offer you a free app. Or branded chotchkies. Take what you want, leave the crap.

4. If celebrity sightings are your thing, scope out the theaters for premieres and bring your best camera. Film takes place March 7-15.

5. Music (March 11-15) is when the city gets a little dirty. If partying is your bag, head over to 6th Street or Red River for the thickest crowds and best people watching.

Be Prepared

6. Make sure you’ve got comfortable shoes! You’ll also want a shoulder bag (to fill with swag during Interactive) and all the crap you need to carry.

7. Obvious essentials: cash, cell phone charger, sunblock or sweatshirt (depending on the weather,) mints and chapstick. If you’re in it for the long haul, maybe stash a KIND bar or two.

Eco Light Garden at SXSW

8. Keep your eye out for free shows. Waterloo Records always has a full line-up. There’s a wealth of bands and parties available all over East Austin (and everywhere, really.) The key is to be aware of the most current information. How? Twitter! Here’s who I recommend following:

9. Lots of events will require an RSVP. The decision on whether to RSVP is yours, but I recommend it. (Use that C-list email address!) Many places won’t have an actual guest list, but are just looking to collect your information for their databases. RSVPing does NOT guarantee you entry into parties. You will wait in line with everyone else.

10. There are massive free events like Fader Fort which DO require an RSVP to get a wristband. Spots for these events are limited and draw some of the bigger bands, so it’s best to confirm your spot as early as possible. Other huge stages sponsored by companies like Doritos and Red Bull will ask for RSVPs, and you should go ahead and get those in as soon as possible, too.

11. Confused about the RSVPs? My tactic is to just sign up for everything I hear about. You can also use an RSVP service to do the dirty work for you. ATXShhh charges $5 and RSVPster has various levels of RSVPing in a pass format starting at $30.

SXSW

12. Keep up with the gossip. Sometimes it’s true and you run into Jimmy Kimmel at a barbecue truck. Sometimes you get burned by wasting an entire night at the supremely boring Austin Music Awards waiting for Johnny Depp to show up…and he doesn’t.

Roll with the Punches

13. Always have a backup plan. If you don’t make it into a show, have another one lined up. Plan 2-3 activities that you could be doing at once and try to minimize running from place to place. DO take petty cabs and promotional rides everywhere. Little electric golf carts sponsored by Netflix? Yes. Piggyback ride for guy dressed as Darth Vader? YES. Cram as much fun as you can into this epic ten day span, because it’ll be over before you know it and your fun memories will fade into a blur of South By’s past.

14. Don’t shy away from the big events. While it’s virtually impossible to get into the secret shows like Prince or Justin Timberlake, it does happen. Pull every string, use whatever connections you have, shamelessly promise anything to anyone. All you can do is try.

Austin Music Awards

Again, you want to live in the moment and enjoy where you are. You will see lots of crazy shit. You will hear a mind-boggling amount of great music. Don’t worry about what you’re missing. Just have fun!

Do you have any tips to share? Leave a comment!

Monday, December 30th

Resolutions for 2014

Here we are. At the end of 2013 already. It was quite a year, wasn’t it? Let’s do a quick review.

Bruno Mars

2013 was a year of music. We saw Pharrell and Justin Timberlake rose to the top again, as well as newcomers Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus were alternately loved and hated, as our fickle tastes violently swayed. Bruno Mars had a hell of a year and I was thrilled to catch him on tour. I also caught Book of Mormon and it lived up to the hype!

In living legend status updates, Woody Allen’s still got it and I got to meet Doyle Bramhall II.

Doyle Bramhall II

In 2013 we said farewell to James Gandolfini, The Office, 30 Rock, and Breaking Bad. But we got Arrested Development back. And Orange is the New Black blew our collective mind.

Breaking Bad

Personally, I had a big year, too. I stopped freelancing and started a new job. Then I was recruited for a bigger job. (Thank you, LinkedIn!) I got a new car. I served as the Education Chair for the Austin Food Blogger Alliance and organized a Photography Camp for the community. I met Fabio Viviani and contributed to his magazine. I was featured on a couple podcasts. I had a cup of coffee with a stranger and it turned into a wonderful friendship. I made lots of new friends actually. I took a break and went to Mexico. I threw myself into SXSW and fell more deeply in love with Austin.

Playa de Carmen

Austin went though some changes, too, by the way. Businesses closed. Businesses opened. The city got more crowded. The traffic got worse. The pizza got better. We got a Trader Joe’s! Pop-ups and supper clubs became the rage.

Bread & Circus Supper Club

Craft beer rose to a crescendo in Austin and Mr. Betty started his own blog to chronicle the beer scene and it has been wildly successful. My own blog is chugging along and continues to opens doors and satisfies my creative drive.

New Year

So what will the new year bring? Hopefully prosperity, good luck, and happiness. But also more opportunity for hard work and self betterment. I have a list of things I’d like to accomplish or at least start.

  • Get over my fear of Reddit. Maybe get a thicker skin in the larger sense.
  • Learn to code. I can’t put it off any longer.
  • Learn some design. It’s be nice to be able to scrap a little something together without hiring a graphic designer all the time.
  • Get ahead of my social media. Meaning I’ll make it more of a priority, rather than a “when I get to it” task.
  • Recycling this one from last year:  I resolve to live healthier. Eat more raw vegetables. Get more exercise. Get more sleep. Drink more water.

Happy New Year, everyone! Do you have any resolutions you’d like to share? Leave a comment.

Monday, December 2nd

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The second Hunger Games movie, Catching Fire, is finally out and is SO MUCH BETTER than the first one. An introduction of new characters and furthering the story of the existing beloved characters, the excitement builds just like the second book.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The first movie set the stage for the trilogy and introduced the beloved characters, but the big complaint of the blockbuster was how very cheap it looked. Shoddy camera work, shaky close-ups, and an unpolished appearance made it feel like maybe this movie was just for kids. Grown-ups shouldn’t have to look at that crap.

When director Gary Ross (Sea Biscuit, Pleasantville) dropped out, I crossed my fingers that we’d see a huge improvement with replacement director Francis Lawrence (Water for Elephants, I Am Legend.) And what an improvement it was! Yes, this movie is for grownups. Kids, too, but it’s the grownups who will appreciate the nuances.

For one, the style has been kicked up several notches. The makeup, hair, and costumes are a big part of the books. (To me, this is the most YA-ish part of the story.) Seeing this creative vision brought to life was thrilling. The dresses, the hair, the makeup. Katniss’ trademark braid took a backseat to formal up-dos and incredible makeup. (The face that Lenny Kravitz was supposed to be behind these looks cracks me up. I love Lenny, but what hilarious, ridiculous casting.)

Stanley Tucci as Caesar Flickerman and Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen and Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark in Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket in Hunger Games: Catching Fire

As usual, I won’t comment too much on the movie so as not to spoil it for anyone. But I will say that I’m thrilled with the casting of Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair and Jenna Malone as Johanna Mason.

Sam Claflin as Finnick Odair in Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Jenna Malone as Johanna Mason in Hunger Games: Catching Fire

And of course, Stanley Tucci steals every scene that he’s in. That laugh, those blinding white teeth…the ponytail!

Wednesday, October 30th

Gravity

Gravity movie Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in space

Have you seen Gravity yet? I went a couple weeks ago and haven’t wanted to think about it again till now.

Note: No spoilers here! I never ruin movies for people. Only TV.

I’ve heard mixed reviews, but more people lean towards liking the film. I definitely liked it, as upsetting and teeth-grinding an experience it was watching it. For days after I felt myself freely enjoying the pleasure of oxygen, which I normally take for granted.

Also, you know how when you’re a kid and want to be an astronaut? And then when you grow up and realize you don’t have the right kind of smarts to be an astronaut, you let that dream go but still hold on to the hope that you might get to float around weightless in a gravity-free chamber one day? With a Groupon or something?

Well, Gravity killed that dream for me, too. I’ll stay right here with my feet planted on the ground, thank you very much. As charming as Clooney made all the floating look, I felt like I might barf into my astronaut helmet.

Gravity movie George Clooney in space

Despite the amazing effects, cinematography, and superb acting, it was the simple story that hooked me. So often, movies weave multiple plot lines and diversionary threads to make it more interesting or add additional stars to the roster. But Gravity shed any extraneous junk, paring it down to the necessary elements. We could focus our panic attention on one thing.

This movie really belongs to Sandra Bullock. She’s earned my pick for Best Actress Oscar this year.

Gravity movie Sandra Bullock in space

Leave a comment and let me know what you thought of Gravity.

Thursday, August 22nd

Blue Jasmine

New Woody Allen movie! I live for these, you guys. Mr. Betty and I went to the Alamo Drafthouse last week and settled in with popcorn and excitement for Blue Jasmine. Major anticipation. Like, Lord of the Rings anticipation. The theater was full and we may have been the youngest people there. Does my generation not care about Woody Allen? Or was it just because we chose an early show? Doesn’t matter.

Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine

This. Movie. Is FANTASTIC. My personal favorite since Vicky Christina Barcelona. Obviously the writing is always good in all of Woody’s movies, so it’s often the cast that makes it or breaks it. And this is pretty much my dream cast.

Cate Blanchett is simply brilliant. Her cool radiance is was sheer perfection as the neurotic, uptight, Xanax-popping Jasmine. I was not familiar with actress Sally Hawkins who played Jasmine’s sister Ginger, but I loved her. And was shocked to learn she is British. Like Blanchett, there was no trace of international accent. She genuinely seemed like a New Yorker transplanted in San Francisco.

Blue Jasmine Sally Hawkins and Andrew Dice Clay

It’s been awhile since Woody Allen has had a movie set in the US. San Francisco made for a lovely backdrop with a few cityscapes, but mostly relying on panoramic views of the sparkling bay. Like all of his movies, it’s a world we’d like to live in where money and fashion are just a given (just like the extramarital affairs.)

I was excited to that two of my favorite actors appeared in this one: Bobby Cannavale and Peter Sarsgaard. Cannavale has a knack for stealing whatever scene he’s in and this was no exception. Peter Sarsgaard’s understated Dwight makes me want to watch Shattered Glass right now. Why are we not talking about Peter Sarsgaard more? I think he’s a brilliant character actor.

Blue Jasmine Peter Sarsgaard and Cate Blanchett

Smaller roles from Louis CK, Andrew Dice Clay and Max Casella Vinnie Delpino satisfied the NYC craving you feel when watching a Woody Allen flick. And of course, the current Mr. New York, Alec Baldwin, who looked fantastic. Marrying a young yoga instructor has really done him well. They were all superb.

Blue Jasmine Bobby Cannavala, Max Casella, and Wood Allen

Blue Jasmine Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Andrew Dice Clay

Blue Jasmine Sally Hawkins and Louis CK

The story lines bounce between love and betrayal, rich and working class struggles, and of course, infidelity.  As always, Woody’s stories are enjoyable and not overly complicated. He doesn’t go crazy with tons of plot twists or surprises; the dialogue and common themes are relatable (maybe) and stand on their own for their intelligent wit. How he is cranking these out every year is mind boggling, but I’m glad they keep coming. Woody remains one of my very favorite directors, writers, and creative geniuses. Our world is better for his existence.

Did you see Blue Jasmine? What did you think?

Wednesday, April 24th

Dogfish Head Party

Off-Centered Film Fest

Last weekend was the Alamo Drafthouse Off-Centered Film Festival, a celebration of film, hip-hop, and beer. So, pretty much all the best stuff in the world. What’s that? Cheese? Oh, yeah there was some cheese, too. At the VIP party at 400 Rabbits.

Antonelli's Cheese

Antonelli’s Cheese provided the perfect cheese and chocolate pairings for the decadent Dogfish Head beers being passed around.

Beer

Beer

We sipped 75 Minute IPA, Burton Baton, and Theobroma while living it up with Dogfish Head founder and CEO, Sam Calagione. Now, Sam is American beer royalty and Mr. Betty and his sister were somewhat starstruck. (Watch Beer Wars to see Sam in all his brewing glory.)

Cindy, Chris and Sam Calagione

He bought us each a Dogfish Head Indian Brown before heading into the theater to introduce the films. We opted to stay and party to the ill spins of Miss Manners. I am a huge Miss Manners fan and her Hip Hop Hooray show on KOOP. She provides thirst-quenching beats in the Austin hip hop desert and I love her. Haven’t listened yet? Get on it, yo.

Miss Manners

While some of us rolled in all casual in our sweet kicks and massive hoop earrings, some attendees really got into the hip hop spirit.

Thug Life

Word.

Wednesday, March 27th

Wrong and Weird

The title of the movie is Wrong. And it’s just weird. The closest comparison I can make to another movie is Napoleon Dynamite. Only weirder and more somber.

The basic premise is that main character, Dolph, wakes up one morning to find his dog missing. Right from the get-go, Dolph is strange, his neighbor is strange, his gardener is strange, and every other character and situation are strange. From beginning to end.

WRONG-EXCLUSIVE-JackOfficeReading

Some weirdness takes place for comedic or emotional effect. The rest is sheerly for the sake of it, like the constant, pounding rain in Dolph’s indoor office. Like everything else, it is never explained or addressed. We are just supposed to accept the indoor rain.

WRONG-EXCLUSIVE-JackOffice2

There are some familiar faces, if that adds to the legitimacy of the film for you.

WRONG-EXCLUSIVE-MasterChangBook

WRONG-EXCLUSIVE-JackAndAlexis

There’s a bit of mystery, magic, delusion, and I hate to overuse the word “weird,” but it’s simply the best description.

I don’t want to get into any details, because discovering the surreal quirks as each scene unfolds is likely the only enjoyment you’ll get from this movie. It’s part of the collection of films the Alamo Drafthouse owns, so there are plenty of opportunities to see it in Austin if you go in the next couple weeks.

I’ll leave you with this clip and you can decide for yourself whether you want to see it. Maybe surrealism is your thing.

Friday, March 8th

Chronicles of a Party Girl

It’s South by Southwest and I pity the poor souls who aren’t in Austin right now. The next week and a half or so will be devoted to consuming as much pop culture and tech as we can squeeze in. And the parties, MY GOD, the parties! My event schedule is too big to properly manage, so I will be whisked away in the herds from one place to the next, hoping that I don’t forget too many. Taking a note from the scenesters, I’ve RSVP’d to everything and am on every list.

While SXSW officially starts today, most of us have been living it up for a week already. You know the pre-parties are necessary training for the actual week. And like conditioned athletes, we train hard. I’m already having too much fun. New career goal: socialite who attends parties for a living. Will someone pay me to do that? Pretty please?

Paris Hilton

Every company worth their salt hosts fabulous parties so you just have to show up, find parking, and enjoy the free drinks and eats. The parking is actually kind of a nightmare and while I’m usually lucky in that area, I might try to figure out how to (takes deep breath) take the bus. Unless someone is volunteering to chauffer me around for about ten days. Pretty please?

How to you prepare for a week of this?

6th St

Photo via The Statesman

SXSW

Photo via Extreme Air Shots

  • A fridge full of bottled water
  • 15 pounds of grapefruit
  • Starbucks double espresso shots
  • Ear plugs
  • Tons of eye makeup remover
  • Comfortable sneakers. Or heels, if you are stupid.
  • Phone, iPad, and laptop chargers
  • Book bag
  • Extra business cards
  • Mints and lip balm

Everyone might have a different Southby prep list, but that’s what mine looks like. In addition to all the parties I’ll be hitting the music circuit and some of the interactive stuff.

I’ll try to recap what I can after the haze clears. But I anticipate relaxing my blogging schedule for a week or so. See you on the other side, everyone!

Monday, February 25th

And the Oscar goes to…

I was so looking forward to last night’s Academy Awards show and it did not disappoint. Of course, I have lowered expectations of the Oscars as they are the most boring awards show. But I was rooting for so many of the movies and also for Seth MacFarlane. While many were unhappy with the choice of host, I was excited. MacFarlane is funny, looks good in a monkey suit, and is a hell of a singer. Primarily a voice actor, I thought he was a bit nervous in the beginning but grew more comfortable as the night went on.

Seth MacFarlane

Predictably, Daniel Day Lewis and Christoph Waltz won in the actor categories and Jennifer Lawrence and Anne Hathaway took home the actress prizes. While I thought Silver Linings Playbook was a pretty good movie, I didn’t think it was Oscar caliber. And J. Law wasn’t the standout in the the film, but as the girl is on fire, I guess it was her year to win. When she fell climbing the stairs to receive her award, it only endeared her to the world even more. The dress was worth the fall, in my opinion.

Jennifer Lawrence

Overall, there were few fashion missteps. Most notable was Anne Hathaway’s Prada nipple dress. Oh, Anne. Why, WHY?!

Anne Hathaway

Melissa McCarthy wore a steely gray abomination that did nothing for her full figure. Her big hair was bad, too.

Melissa McCarthy

But let us focus on the looks we liked. Amy Adams wore a gossamer dream from Oscar de la Renta. Adele wore a sparkling beaded gown that sparkled like stars when she performed Skyfall. Halle Berry’s custom creation was inspired by James Bond and fit her to a tee. Salma Hayek took a break from her normal cleavage-baring style to wear a velvet Alexander McQueen.

Amy Adams

Adele

Halle Berry

Salma Hayek

One of my favorite moments of the evening was Quentin Tarantino’s acceptance speech for Best Original Screenplay. I hope he’s correct, that it really will be The Year of the Writer. I was also very happy that Ang Lee won Best Director for Life of Pi. The film also took home awards for cinematography, visual effects, and original score, making it the big winner of the night. Absolutely deserved!

Argo won the night’s highest honor, Best Picture. Truly, I think Ben Affleck deserved a director and actor nomination, but he seemed pleased enough. His acceptance speech was the most frazzled and charming we’ve ever seen him. It was such an incredible movie, I don’t even feel too bad for Lincoln.

2012 gave us a bumper crop of great films, so I hope 2013 isn’t a letdown. Uh oh, I hear the theme music from Jaws playing. Time for me to wrap it up.

What were your favorite Oscar moments?