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Nordling's SXSW Coverage Continues! BELLFLOWER! Panels! AICN's 15th Anniversary! DRAGONSLAYER! Guillermo Del Toro! And More!

Nordling here.

If this is full of colorful invectives and bad spelling, that's because I just literally walked in the door about 15 minutes ago from Austin, working on 4+ hours sleep.  But I can safely say these past two days have been two of the best days in my life.  I've seen some wonderful films, met some wonderful people, and if you eat the Boss Hogg at Gourdough's, it's about a pound of heaven in a styrofoam box.  Holy shit.  It's a homemade donut, covered in brisket and potato salad and barbeque sauce.  And it's fucking amazing.  Drew McWeeny took a look at it and said, "I'm going somewhere private to eat this."  And I completely agree.  Go somewhere by yourself, just you and the Boss Hogg, and just get filthy with it.

But you're here to read about SXSW, and so I'll do my best to summarize.  My first activity of the day was going to three panels.  First, the horror panel, moderated by my friend Scott Weinberg of FEARnet and Cinematical, and the panel featured Emily Hagins (MY SUCKY TEEN ROMANCE), Jason Eiesner (HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN), James Wan (INSIDIOUS), Xavier Gens (THE DIVIDE), Nicolas Goldbart (PHASE 7), Simon Rumley (LITTLE DEATHS), and Ben Wheatley (KILL LIST).  Scott ran a terrific panel, and the questions were terrific, covering the gamut from remakes to sexual politics in horror filmmaking.  A hell of a terrific panel, and I look forward to seeing these filmmakers' films.  Especially Emily's film - I've known her for a long time and it's pretty amazing to see an artist like Emily come into her own as a filmmaker.

The next panel was about film criticism in this world of studio marketing, and a critic's place in the modern era of studio filmmaking.  My friend Devin Faraci was on the panel, but I had to duck out early to get to the AICN 15th anniversary panel.  But when I left Devin was taking on all comers. just the way I like it.  You may differ with Devin when it comes to films and filmmaking, but you can't deny his knowledge or passion for film.  He's in this line of work because he fucking loves amazing film, and wants to champion great art, and if you ever sat down with him and gotten to know him a little better, you might come away with that truth as well.

The AICN SXSW Panel was next.  Harry took us through 15 years of Ain't It Cool News, from the days when he was bedridden and dreamed up the site, to the days of BATMAN AND ROBIN, through the short-lived pilot show, up to the present day.  I've followed this site since practically the beginning and I was still surprised by some of this.  I didn't know that Kevin Biegel's early review of THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY directly led to him being hired by the Farrelly Brothers, and now he's the head writer of ABC's COUGAR TOWN.  I'm still so honored to be a part of this site and working for Harry, and it's difficult for me to look at these guys without some semblance of awe.  But as Massawyrm put it to me last night, "You don't have to look up to us.  You're one of us."  I appreciate the sentiment, but I still don't feel like I'm there yet.  I'm still working my hardest to be in the same solar system as these guys.

Alright, you want to hear about films.  Well, I only saw two yesterday, and I'll be seeing two this week sometime, and those two will be the last I cover for SXSW.  But the two I saw last night, well, let's start with BELLFLOWER.

BELLFLOWER is Evan Glodell's feature film debut; he also starred and wrote the film and built the amazing car on the poster, as well as several of the cameras used to shoot the film.  If I had to sum up BELLFLOWER, it's about two stunted twentysomethings who can't seem to grow past the dreams of childhood.   Woodrow (Glodell) has dreamed for years to make a car to withstand the apocalypse.  Seeing THE ROAD WARRIOR very young, Woodrow wants nothing more than to be Humongous of the roads, with his friend Aiden (Tyler Dawson) by his side in his majestic MEDUSA.  But when Woodrow meets Milly (Jessie Wiseman) at a cricket-eating contest, she beats him cold and he's immediately smitten.

BELLFLOWER is shot mostly through Woodrow's point of view, and the cinematography (by Joel Hodge) is pretty damn terrific.  Hodge and Glodell invented some of the cameras used in the film, and various techniques are used for the imagery, including tilt shift and blurred perspective.  This is all used to accentuate Woodrow's descent as his relationship with Milly begins to fail.  Because the film is from Woodrow's point of view, it's difficult to understand what's real and what is fantasy.  Eventually the audience comes to realize that Woodrow has a very difficult time articulating his emotions, and what we're seeing is his strange perspective of the world.  For example, when his relationsip with Milly ends, there's no buffer between the good times and the bad, and that's because Woodrow doesn't have the ability to recognize when things start going south in the relationship.  Once Milly and Woodrow break up, he begins a physical and mental spiral into madness and we can never be sure what is reality for Woodrow and what is fantasy.

This film's going to divide people who see it, and frankly, although I really liked BELLFLOWER, it's not for everyone.  One of the issues I had with the film is that the characters don't seem to have any jobs but have the money for copious amounts of alcohol and car parts.  But during the Q&A Glodell brought up an interesting point - for the majority of us, our twentysomething jobs were simply places to get money and had no larger significance in our lives, and so he didn't feel the need to show them since they weren't important to the characters.  I can understand that, but it's still a leap for the audience to make and many people won't be able to get past it.  Still others won't like the characters very much - many will dismiss them as self-entitled hipster types, a claim I can't really disagree with.  But I don't need to like the characters to enjoy the movie, the characters just have to make sense in their film, and I felt that they did.  BELLFLOWER is getting released through Oscilloscope, and hopefully it will come to a theater near you in July.  I liked BELLFLOWER a lot - it's got flaws but an awful lot of personality, and cinematically the film looks amazing.

That evening I made my way with Drew McWeeny to the Paramount to see the AICN Secret Screening, and it was debated the entire time I was at SXSW what it was.  "It's TREE OF LIFE!"  "Harry got SUPER 8!"  "Harry got THOR!"  Although Harry's pulled the wool over a ton of eyes before, this time, I believed him when he said vintage.  I even suspected who the guest would be, but I had no idea Harry would pick one of my favorite films of the 1980s - DRAGONSLAYER, with Guillermo del Toro in attendance with us.  DRAGONSLAYER (and there's another film playing SXSW called DRAGONSLAYER, but it's a doc about skateboarders, so no confusion meant) is just wonderful.  Probably the best dragon ever put on film, and I don't think many movie geeks would dispute that.  Vermithrax is amazing creature design, and when we first see her in all her glory, the audience couldn't help but applaud.  It was wonderful seeing DRAGONSLAYER with a pumped geek audience, and to those who left after Harry announced the title - shame on you.  Seriously.  Unless you really had to get to another screening, which I understand, this is a fun film, one of the best fantasy films ever made, and definitely the best fantasy film of the 1980s, and seeing it with that crowd was geek bliss.  Afterwards, Harry and Del Toro discussed the film, fantasy filmmaking in general, and the state of monster movies today.  One of the topics that was interesting to me was when Del Toro talked about having empathy for the monster.  "Studios today don't want humanity in their monsters.  There's good over here, and evil over there, and that's the way it should be to them."  He's right in a lot of ways, but I think filmmakers, suck as Matt Reeves with CLOVERFIELD, have found a way to strike that balance.

Outside, I was able to introduce myself to Del Toro, which was nice.  "It's you!  You're the last AICN guy I haven't met!"  If you've ever seen Guillermo speak or met him, he's one of the most gracious guys on the planet, and he'd love nothing more than to sit and chat movies with you.  Always the journalist (yeah, right) I did have a question for him though, tangentially relating to AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS.  "I agree with you about having empathy for the monsters.  But how does that work with Lovecraft's monsters?"

"That's very hard," Del Toro said.  When I said that maybe you can approach them with awe, he shook his head.  "No, that's fucking with Lovecraft's vision.  These are terrifying creatures, and the audience should respond along with the characters in absolute fucking horror."  Unfortunately he didn't have more time beyond that, and had to go.  But it was wonderful to meet him.

I know this article seems bloggy as fuck.  I'm tired, and I still have quite a bit to do tonight before I hit the sack.  But I have to thank everyone who was so gracious to me at my first South By Southwest: Harry Knowles, of course, Eric Vespe, Drew McWeeny, Jsrrette Moats, Aaron Morgan, Paul Gandersman, Emily Hagins, Scott Weinberg, C. Robert Cargill, Brooks Blain, Kevin Biegel (thanks for the hugs and the barbeque!), Steve Prokopy, Jay Knowles (pleasure watching 13 ASSASSINS with you, you were right), Glen Oliver, Iain Stasukevich, Joe Cornish, Edgar Wright, Guillermo Del Toro, John Gholson, Devin Faraci, Janet Pierson, and if I'm forgetting anyone, I'm sorry and I'm completely wiped but know that you're awesome and amazing people there in Austin, and I'd live there if i could, believe me.  I'm not completely done with SXSW coverage yet - I still have two films to review - but I hope you enjoyed this and keep reading as AICN in it's 15th Anniversary will continue to bring you all things geek as much as we can.  Thanks.

Nordling, out.

Readers Talkback
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  • March 15, 2011, 4:42 p.m. CST

    Dragonslayer was one of the 1st films I had on VHS

    by Phategod100

  • March 15, 2011, 4:45 p.m. CST


    by dznutzforu

    Love me some Dragonslayer.

  • March 15, 2011, 4:51 p.m. CST

    Who's who in that AICN photo? C'mon Nordling, post a caption

    by Bobo_Vision

    I think I see Quint, Moriarty, HeadGeek and his Dad,....but not sure who the rest are.

  • March 15, 2011, 5:21 p.m. CST

    Drangonslayer is 80's fantasy gold!

    by bat725

    I couldn't believe how well this movie held up when I picked it up on DVD a couple years back. Even the special effects with the dragon still look good. Better than Conan the Barbarian, Excalibur and the original Clash of the Titans? I don't know. But, definitely the best dragon movie ever made.

  • March 15, 2011, 5:29 p.m. CST

    Harold looks like he's having an absolutely miserable time.


    While all you goobers are smiling.

  • March 15, 2011, 5:30 p.m. CST

    Can I play the piano?


    Of course you can! Well, I couldn't before!

  • March 15, 2011, 5:31 p.m. CST


    by AugustusGloop

    Left to Right: Kevin Biegel, Quint, FatherGeek, HeadGeek, Glen Oliver, Capone, Moriarty

  • March 15, 2011, 5:43 p.m. CST

    Quint is one jolly fella.


    Here's to you, Quint! You should be in charge of this site.

  • March 15, 2011, 5:47 p.m. CST

    I don't know how Dragonslayer . . .

    by Nice Marmot

    . . . couldn't be in any geek's top 10 fantasy films. There are LOTS of attempts but few really good fantasy films. I'd put it in my top 5 w/ Jackson's entire Trilogy counting as just 1 film.

  • March 15, 2011, 5:49 p.m. CST

    I love you Dr. Zaius!!!

    by Nice Marmot

  • March 15, 2011, 5:58 p.m. CST

    That "Boss Hogg" sounds vomitous.

    by WriteForTheEdit

    Also, you can never have enough TB love for "Stop The Planet Of The Apes; I Want To Get Off." Smellin' of Troy!

  • March 15, 2011, 6:01 p.m. CST

    Anyway, more to the point, "Bellflower" sounds pretty interesting...

    by WriteForTheEdit

    ...and I dig the car.

  • March 15, 2011, 6:02 p.m. CST

    Typical damn_dirty_ape...

    by Massawyrm 1

    Always ready to put his cock in my ass without knowing what the fuck he's going on about. In a discussion Nordling said "I just look up to all you guys." I said "You're not supposed to look up to us. Hell, you're one of us." We're not people to be looked up to. That's my contention. But you'd love it if I were as full of myself as you often purport that I am. Jesus, Ape. Pull your fucking head out of your ass.

  • March 15, 2011, 6:08 p.m. CST



    Great 80's fantasy movie!

  • March 15, 2011, 6:14 p.m. CST


    by The Great One

    This to me was the single best fantasy film until the LotR trilogy came out. I truly envy you for getting to see it in a theaters with other filmgoers.

  • March 15, 2011, 6:26 p.m. CST

    As someone who shares the affliction of a gigantic forehead

    by mr.underwater

    Allow to make a personal recommendation to Capone to ditch the flat-top. While your 90-year-old barber may think it makes you look sharp as a tack (mine did too), the truth is, if you grow some bangs to cover your, um, affliction, the amount of women who want to talk to you will at least double, if not triple. Take from someone who's been there.

  • March 15, 2011, 6:36 p.m. CST

    I don't think Massawyrm is full of himself because....

    by IndustryKiller!

    To have taste that incredibly bad and still be full of yourself would necessitate a level of egomaniacal furor that would surely have landed him in an asylum by his age. The guy liked Battle: Los Angeles, which in 5 years is going to be equivalent to liking what saying you like Pearl harbor is to people today. He's got so much to be embarrassed about I'm pretty sure it, at least to some degree, nullifies the ego.

  • March 15, 2011, 6:56 p.m. CST

    Dragonslayer is awesome

    by lv_426

    My top 5 favorite fantasy films are: 1. Conan the Barbarian 2. Legend (director's cut) 3. The Lord of the Rings trilogy 4. Excalibur / Zardoz (an awesome John Boorman duo) 5. Princess Mononoke The rest of the best, in no particular order: Dragonslayer Howl's Moving Castle Big Big Fish Elf Willow The Adventures of Baron Munchausen Monty Python and the Holy Grail Jason and the Argonauts The Princess Bride Gremlins The Neverending Story Ghostbusters Star Wars episodes IV, V, and VI* Cheesy but fun guilty pleasure fantasy flicks: Highlander Flash Gordon (this one is just too silly to be sci-fi) Krull The Beastmaster The Golden Child Big Trouble in Little China --------------- * Obviously the Star Wars films have one foot firmly inside the territory of the fantasy genre, but I'm one that sees them more as science fiction than fantasy.

  • March 15, 2011, 7:14 p.m. CST

    bat 725

    by Shaner Jedi

    IMHO, yes it is better than those films....except maybe Conan. But Conan and Dragonslayer... and even the original Clash had a certain whimsical quality that's absent from most reboots today.

  • March 15, 2011, 7:23 p.m. CST

    Mr Nordling just talk about movies please

    by abetyler

    Seriously I don't care about your life, friends, the fame of being AICN writer, neither I care about Massawyrm recognition, or the food you had and the way you had it. Jesus you barely speaking about 2 movies here! And that's not because you wrote down movie's titles that you indeed spoke about it. I hate to say it but just do your frakkin job!

  • March 15, 2011, 7:24 p.m. CST


    by Massawyrm 1

    There's a certain truth to what you're saying. Unlike you I have little to no ego about my sense of taste. I don't believe this job is about taste at all - and I certainly don't believe I am some sort of arbiter of it. I love a lot of movies others don't - and vice versa - and I could give a shit how often I agree with a Tomato-meter. My job is to get people to think and debate the merits of film and find their answers for themselves. But not all people - talkbackers especially - understand the difference in tone between "I'm right and you're wrong," and that of the Socratic method. We don't feel that we're special because we're here - we feel that we're lucky. Not that you'd ever get that from us when your only interaction with us is to shit on us.

  • March 15, 2011, 8:33 p.m. CST

    Massa, have you read this article?

    by IndustryKiller! I think it expresses quite well what exactly is wrong with taking just the most cynical, fucking awful, borderline racist garbage like Battle: LA, which isn't even solid on a technical level, and saying it's "good enough" entertainment that thrills despite not working on any level. That's what you do, and you do it to a degree that is frighteningly constant. And before you say "I'm not here to to think about anything but the movie that is in front of me on the screen for the two hours that I'm in that theater." I'll say, maybe so, but even that very simple job I don't think you're putting the proper amount of intellectual thought into.

  • March 15, 2011, 8:40 p.m. CST

    And "us" Massawyrm?

    by IndustryKiller!

    You, sure. Harry, occasionally, but I've also praised him as well. In fact I both took harry to task AND defended him in two different talkbacks today. As for the other editors that's not even remotely true. When Moriarty were here I actually had a fairly interesting dialogue going. Understand dude, you're the biggest offender, and I don't think most people here would disagree with that.

  • March 15, 2011, 8:48 p.m. CST

    i thougt massawyrm was a guy

    by snookibaconmuffpie

    My bad, he's a sensitive young precious flower of a girl with easily hurt feelings

  • March 15, 2011, 9:31 p.m. CST

    Nordling needs an Avatar! I suggest a baby dragon with Viking garb and a horn of mead.

    by Stereotypical Evil Archer

    I think Nordling is doing awesome, I hope he sticks around and doesn't get seduced and go somewhere else.

  • March 16, 2011, 3:09 a.m. CST

    Empathy for Lovecraft’s monsters

    by Frank Conniff

    In the case of AtMoM, the Elder Things are pretty sympathetic, I would say. Their scientific endeavors mirror those of the story’s human protagonists, and in the shoggoths they also share a common enemy with the humans. So I don’t really see the problem there. More difficult to empathize with the shoggoths themselves, I guess.

  • March 16, 2011, 5:24 a.m. CST

    why doesn't matthew robbins direct anymore?

    by baronweazle

    He's a writing partner with Guillermo del toro now, so why doesn't he direct some of the films they write together. I always thought he was an excellent director.

  • March 16, 2011, 8:03 a.m. CST

    Yo, Harry. Why the fuck do you grow your "beard" from your neck?!

    by Luke_Cage

    The most appaling fashion statement I have ever experienced. Word

  • March 16, 2011, 8:48 a.m. CST

    GDT's right about Lovecraft's monsters...

    by Lobanhaki2

    I mean, sometimes you've got a person who's turning into one, and of course you ought to pity them, but for the most part his creatures are just these awesomely fucked-up nightmares who are just nothing like humans, and a hell of a lot more powerful. There's no touchy-feely connection with such creatures in Lovecraft. You get eaten, turned into something monstrous yourself, go nuts, or spend the rest of your life in the dreadful knowledge that human existence balances on the edge of a knife. Lovecraft is learning more about the universe and finding out you were better off stupid and oblivious.

  • March 16, 2011, 8:59 a.m. CST

    Oh, and on the subject of Talkbackers...

    by Lobanhaki2

    I don't get the impression many of them love the experience of movies. I hear far too many of them saying how they're just going to fucking hate this movie or that. Me? If I don't want to see a movie, I simply don't see it. I mean, can you really organize your enjoyment of a film, rate it like those people Robin Williams makes fun of in Dead Poets Society? I think what people miss nowadays is that not every movie's built to create the same experiences, and there will always be some experiences you dislike not because the filmmaker failed to do their job well, but because with certain movies, you just won't like them. I would like it if more critics and reviewers reviewed movies as if they are men and women with subjective outlooks, rather than objective arbiters of taste. If you think you can objectively rate the tastes of a worlds worth of different people, then you're never going to be as receptive to the actual movies as they are as you should be. To you, they will always represent something else, a cultural issue or a symptom of bad social change or something like that. Watch movies for yourself, with yourself. Don't make work out of what's supposed to be play.

  • March 16, 2011, 10:41 a.m. CST

    Ok, so now I'm back to thinking Nordling is really Devin Faraci


    "My friend Devin Faraci was on the panel, but I had to duck out early to get to the AICN 15th anniversary panel. But when I left Devin was taking on all comers. just the way I like it. You may differ with Devin when it comes to films and filmmaking, but you can't deny his knowledge or passion for film. He's in this line of work because he fucking loves amazing film, and wants to champion great art, and if you ever sat down with him and gotten to know him a little better, you might come away with that truth as well."

  • March 16, 2011, 10:48 a.m. CST

    Sounds like an amazing donut

    by Muldoon

  • March 16, 2011, 11 a.m. CST


    by flax

    I don't think del Toro would be willing to share directing duties with anyone. He refused to let Peter Jackson work as a second-unit director when he was still doing The Hobbit – if he doesn't want to let another director handle a scene or two, he's hardly going to let them handle half the film.

  • Oh, and it was never Hip To Be Square! F U Huey Lewis!

  • March 16, 2011, 11:25 a.m. CST


    by Frank Conniff

    I agree about Lovecraft’s monsters, except the Elder Things in AtMoM. I think they are the only ones that are kind of sympathetic. Maybe also to some extent the Dunwich Horror at the end when it is being killed, and it calls out for its father. It is half human after all. Pretty much all the rest are just totally malevolent or, even worse, completely indifferent beings that dwarf humans in power and intellect.

  • March 16, 2011, 11:39 a.m. CST

    I think it was kind of hip to be square.

    by Frank Conniff

    Just like it has been for the past decade or so. Individualism isn’t really valued in pop culture all that much these days, and I think in the eighties that was also the case. In the nineties, as in the 60’s and 70’s, nonconformity and creativity were a lot more important and people with those traits tended to be held in higher esteem. As for Huey’s song: It’s not just about the pleasures of conformity and the importance of trends-it's also a personal statement about the band itself. Hey Paul!

  • March 16, 2011, 12:32 p.m. CST

    I see where Harry gets his sense of fashion


  • March 16, 2011, 1:33 p.m. CST

    lv_426, Dragonslayer is awesome indeed

    by AsimovLives

    And the more time passe,s the more admire that movie. I can'tbeleive it was made under Disney aegis. It seems there was a time in the early 80s when disney had found some balls. Sadly, they lost them again right away.

  • March 16, 2011, 3:01 p.m. CST

    Asi, check out augustusgloop's post at 5:31 yesterday


    for who's who in the pic

  • March 16, 2011, 5:06 p.m. CST


    by kurtisaurus

    Just re-watched it two weeks ago coincidentally after years and years since the last viewing. Still really good and more fun than any fantasy I can think of recently. Great dragon design, and strong acting all around. Strange that Peter MacNicol shuns it from his CV, but it's definitely a different role than the ones he took on later so maybe it's just not his cup of tea.

  • March 17, 2011, 6:35 a.m. CST


    by baronweazle

    I certainly think you're right he wouldn't let him co-direct, or even a scene from at the mountains of madness. But they've written a few films together and don't be affraid of the dark, for example, was directed by a guy named Troy Nixey or something. Why not let Robbins direct that one instead?

  • March 17, 2011, 9:22 a.m. CST

    the_choppah, thanks

    by AsimovLives

    I did noticed that post before i posted my "who the hell is who" post. Thanks anyway, pal.