Welcome to Austin, TX.  Or welcome back, rather.  It's my home away from home at this point, the place where I've spent so much of the last 15 years.  And it's familiar by now, so when I arrive, I know where I'm going.  Thursday was picking up the rental car, getting a first dinner with people, and writing up my reviews for "Green Zone" and "Remember Me" as well as that Greengrass interview.  Friday was a morning of faxing papers and trying to meet deadlines for insurance stuff, things that don't care if you're at a festival, like a busted brake light on my rental car that makes me nervous I'm going to get hassled by over-zealous SXSW-crazed law enforcement.  I'd hate to miss a screening because of some ridiculous technical glitch with the rental car.

That's almost what happened anyway.  I got a later start than I wanted dealing with all of this, then went to the South Lamar Alamo, so I could leave my car there, catch the shuttle to the Paramount, then shuttle back over for a double-feature to close the night.

Might even have been a plan.  Except the shuttle never came.  So eventually, I had to hop in the rental and drive over to the Paramount anyway.  By the time I found parking and walked over, it was 6:30, and the film was set to start at 7:00.  At that point, there was a line around the back end of the theater.  I walked around to the front of the lines to see which of them I was supposed to be in at that point with my gold film badge.  As I did, cars began to pull up to the front of the theater, filled with the cast and the crew of the film, and the back doors of the first car opened.  Producer Tarquin Pack and producer/writer/director Matthew Vaughn got out.  And as they did, they looked over, saw me, and walked over to say hello.  We'd talked after the screening of the film in December at Butt-Numb-A-Thon, and I've been eagerly waiting to see the finished film since.

They ended up escorting me in, down the red carpet between them.  I ran into Chris Mintz-Plasse between barrages of questions and cameras, and then was past it and inside, and I eventually found Quint inside.

Good fortune.  That's been the key to tonight.  I was able to bolt at the end of the "Kick-Ass" screening to run five blocks to my rental, then drive back to the South Lamar Alamo, where I ran inside at 9:27 for the 9:30 show of "Leaves Of Grass," with Tim Blake Nelson and Ed Norton, directed by Nelson and featuring an extra Ed Norton performance for your ticket price.  It ended with the first of the SX Fantastic screenings, "Outcast," I'll just say this:  Scottish horror.  Programmed by Tim League and the assorted madmen of Fantastic Fest.  That's the stamp of approval that means something to me, sight unseen.

It was possible to have a totally different SXSW experience, of course, today.  "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" screened, and I wish it was a shorter film.  It's two and a half hours, meaning it ran too close to the start of "Kick-Ass" to go see it.  The film that I've been told in no uncertain terms that I have to go see before I leave is "Dogtooth," with James Rocchi and Scott Weinberg both practically bellowing at me about making sure I see the other screening.  The Iranian film about a bunch of young guys fresh out of jail and starting a band, "No One Cares About Persian Cats" played, and I'm intrigued.  There may be room for it later for me to catch up.  And I think I am also seeing "World's Largest" at a later screening, a documentary about the culture of roadside attractions about the world's largest objects of different types.    At 10:00, there was a screening of that great White Stripes documentary I saw before Toronto last year.  So much fun, and at the Paramount?  It must have rocked.

By far, the biggest of the events I did not attend tonight was Fox's first look glimpse at "Predators". Harry Knowles saw the footage before dinner last night, and he was surprised by it.  I don't think he epxected a gritty jungle survival SF action film quite like what he described to me, a growing sense that the more he talked about it, the more he liked it.  Still, as he put it, "don't expect payoff.  It's all tease  But it's great tease."  I understand that.  It's early days.  The film's out in summer.  You can't see the trailer online until next week, but the sneak peek material that was shown tonight is available right now at the just-launched official site.  My take on the stuff you can see there is that it looks like they're making something that you may like, you may hate, but it's a real attempt at making a no-holds-barred horror action 'Predator" movie.  It looks rough and cool and big, and I now find myself hopeful that we're getting a worthy new chapter in the life of the "Predator" series.  I trust Nimrod Antal.  I think he's a nimble, smart, reliably strong filmmaker.  There's several of those guys here this year.  Shane Meadows is here this year.  Neil Marshall is here this year.  I think Antal is just waiting for the right piece of material at the right moment, and this may well be that moment.  Right now, if you want to see the best image of the teaser poster that was handed out at the screening, CinemaBlend seems to have it.

In that same theater today, I could have seen "Trash Humpers" and a mdinight screening of "Tucker And Dale Vs. Evil," which I saw and reviewed at Sundance.  I'm sure at some point, in some circumstance, I'll see the Harmony Korine film, but I'm in no rush.  And in another theater, "Cherry" kicked off the evening's programming, then a movie I really do hope to catch at some point, "The Good Heart" starring Paul Dano and Brian Cox. It looks like an ensemble drama about the community among the customers and owner of a bar.  And there were shorts programs at different times on different screens.

The well-liked Sundance documentary "The Red Chapel" played, a new documentary about Bill Hicks played, and that great doc about the White Stripes that was also at Toronto played again, too.  I'll see "Red Chapel" and "Bill Hicks: American" later this week, so I'm not feeling anxious about it.  Still... look at how much played.  How many choices there were for badge holders.  Amazing.

All of that on opening day.  That's about three times as much as what Sundance offered on the first day of screenings this year.  I am up tomorrow to interview Matt Reeves, then see the movies "Thunder Soul" and "Barry Munday" back to back, then see two more movies later in the evening. 

Right now, though, I've got reviews for you of "Kick-Ass," "Leaves of Grass,' and then "Outcast" midday tomorrow.  We're off and running.  It's SXSW, and it's already a blast.

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