Meat Loaf and a member of the KISS Army in STAGE FRIGHT

“But you said you wouldn’t do that!”

Seems like just two months ago we were knee deep in Sundance coverage, but already we’ve moved on to the next big thing in film festival coverage. SXSW is the annual film/music/interactive extravaganza that draws film, music, and interactive(?) fans from all around the country to descend into Austin, TX for one hell of a good time. We here at FSR come for the movies (and the food and the friends), and this year our team is four strong and ready to rock. And by rock we mean sit in theater seats of varying levels of comfort, enjoy the culinary wonderland that is Austin’s food scene, and hang out with other like-minded characters.

This year’s fest features a lot of titles we’re excited to devour with our eyes, but of the dozens of films we’ll be seeing this coming week we’ve narrowed down our top fourteen below. Neil Miller had to be talked out of putting The Raid 2 on here multiple times, Christopher Campbell moved outside his comfort zone to show interest in some narrative films, and Jack Giroux failed to realize that “anticipated” should really refer to movies he hasn’t seen yet.

Keep reading to see which fourteen films we’re anticipating most at SXSW 2014.

All Is By My Side

This is the rare bio film that chooses a specific point history to say everything it needs to about its subject, Mr. Jimi Hendrix (Andre Benjamin). There’s a scene that says everything about his childhood in a two minute phone conversation between Hendrix and his father. What most bio films take 30 minutes to say in act one, writer-director John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) expresses in mere minutes. The film avoids all of its genre tropes to tell a focused and compelling story. – Jack Giroux

Among the Living

Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury‘s Inside is ont of the best horror films of the past decade thanks its combination of intense storyline and incredible affection for the red stuff, and while their follow-up, Livid, is a visually arresting misfire at best the duo remain talented and exciting filmmakers. This is their third feature together, and its deceptively simple premise involving three boys witnessing a possible murder is ripe with possibility. Beatrice Dalle is back along for the ride, and we’re hoping it’s a return to beautiful, nightmarish form. – Rob Hunter

Neil deGrasse Tyson in COSMOS

Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey

If we disregard for a moment the fact that Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson will be present at the SXSW premiere of Cosmos for an extended Q&A session — something that may cause serious gasms in the nerd-sector — and focus on the fact that we’re excited to see Carl Sagan‘s legacy revived with a modern rendition of his show, that’s probably enough. But did we mention the extended Q&A to go along with the premiere? Yes, that’s going to be worth sticking around for. As part of South by’s newly expanded offering of television content, Cosmos is the headliner. How do we better understand our place in space and time? Science! That’s how. – Neil Miller

Exists

Bigfoot hasn’t had the best luck when it comes to recent horror movies thanks in large part to dreck like Bigfoot: The Lost Coast Tapes and The Woodsman, but there’s hope yet for old Sasquatch. Not only is Bobcat Goldthwait’s fantastic Willow Creek waiting in the wings, but Eduardo Sánchez‘s latest seems pretty promising too. Sure it’s found footage, but if anyone can make the format work again it’s the co-creator of The Blair WItch Project. Sánchez is on a bit of a roll lately with the creepily effective Lovely Molly and the “Ride in the Park” segment in V/H/S/2, and we’re betting that tred continues with this hopefully terrifying creature feature. – RH

Faults

If our desire to see this film had to be summed up in one word that word would be Mary Elizabeth Winstead. (You know what I mean.) Her lead role in 2012’s Smashed proved what many of us had suspected from her various supporting turns. She’s an incredible actress, and with the right material she abolutely shines. This film sees her as a recent cult inductee abducted by her her parents and placed in the custody of a supposed professional (Leland Orser) in the field of brain-washing, and what follows promises to be a fascinating battle of wills. – RH

Frank

There is a lot of quirk in director Lenny Abrahamson‘s film. Sometimes it can be a bit too much, but for the most part, Abrahamson’s dramedy about a dysfunctional band ultimately turns all that quirk into real pain. Michael Fassbender gives an exceptionally human performance under that big paper mache head as the band’s lead singer, Frank, an incredibly gifted musician, and he’s the soul of this often moving film. – JG

Kate Lynne Shiel in THE HEART MACHINE

The Heart Machine

Another feature debut, this one from a Village Voice film critic (Zachary Wigon), which opens it up for utmost scrutiny. As I wrote before, I’m mostly drawn to this film, which is like an indie drama version of MTV’s Catfish, because of actress Kate Lynn Sheil. And after seeing House of Cards waste her talents in a nothing role recently, I’m hoping she’s has plenty to do as a woman who may be lying to her Internet boyfriend about where she’s living. He is played by John Gallagher, Jr., who was great in last year’s SXSW hit Short Term 12. – Christopher Campbell

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz

From programming prodigy to the co-founder of Reddit, the legacy of Aaron Swartz would have been well known even if he hadn’t tragically taken his own life at age 26. But the intensified sadness of seeing a life of activism that led to a very dark place is the driving force behind a documentary that promises to show us not just the life of an internet-era pioneer, but how his loss has profoundly affected communities online and what it means for the future of the intersection between civil liberties and cyberspace. – NM

The Legend of Shorty

My most anticipated doc at the fest is the latest from two-time Oscar-winning producer Simon Chinn. Almost everything this guy touches is gold, from Man on Wire and Project Nim to Searching for Sugar Man and The Impostor. He also recently produced one of the most acclaimed films of Sundance, The Green Prince.  This one is the story of drug cartel leader Joaquin Guzman Loera, aka El Chapo, or Shorty, who may be the most wanted man in the world. Could this be Chinn’s next ticket to the Academy Awards? I’m excited to find out. – CC

Only Lovers Left Alive

Generally speaking, director Jim Jarmusch is not for everyone, but if his latest film doesn’t work for you non-Jarmusch fans then there is simply no helping you. This romance is funny, smart, and genuinely romantic. It does feature vampires, but that doesn’t mean the film doesn’t have a big heart. It’s a human story that happens to have two hippie vampires at the center of it, but those vamps could not be played with any more charm by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, who will both go down as an iconic film couple. – JG

Ethan Hawke in PREDESTINATION

Predestination

Michael and Peter Spierig are serious talents to keep an eye on. Their last film, and only their second feature, Daybreakers, showed that they could match the massive scale of tentpole films with gleeful filmmaking and pared-down storytelling on a tight budget. The Spierig brothers understand genre, take it seriously, and know how to put their own twist on it. Hopefully they came up with an equally original stake on time travel with Predestination, which reunites them with Ethan Hawke. – JG

The Raid 2

Forget SXSW, there might not be a more anticipated movie this year for many of us here at FSR than Gareth Evans‘ follow-up to 2011’s The Raid. From what we understand based on reviews from Sundance, including our own, there probably won’t be a more deliciously violent action movie gracing the silver screen in 2014 and perhaps until they make round 3. With bated breath, we’ve been waiting for the fury to unfold as Evans pulls back on the corrupt universe he’s created, revealing not just one tower but an entire city full of criminals. Our hero, Rama (played again by Iko Uwais) will be forced to go undercover and contend with characters who have names like “Hammer Girl” and “Baseball Bat Man.” They had us at Hammer Girl. They had us… at Hammer Girl. – NM

Space Station ’76

I’m always on the lookout first for the indie sci-fi films at major festivals, so this one intrigues me because it’s a “dramedy,” and therefore I’m very curious to see how that sort of tone works for an outer-space character-driven tale with retro-minded production design. It only sorta worked out for Roman Coppola’s CQ, for instance. This is also the directorial debut of Jack Plotnick, star of Quentin Dupieux’s Wrong, and has a decent cast of pliable actors including Patrick Wilson and Liv Tyler. It will be great or totally awful. – CC

Stage Fright

“A snobby musical theater camp is terrorized by a blood-thirsty killer who hates musical theater.” It’s a slasher/comedy/musical, and it stars Meat Loaf. Why wouldn’t you be excited? – RH

SXSW 2014 runs March 7-16


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