Exactly How Offensive Is Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart’s ‘Get Hard’?

In Etan Cohen’s Get Hard, out this Friday, ridiculously wealthy white asshole James (Will Ferrell) gets framed for Madoff-style investment fraud. Faced with a healthy prison sentence that begins in 30 days, he hires black working guy Darnell (Kevin Hart), who washes cars in his parking garage, to teach him how to survive (read: not get raped) in prison. Oh, the culture clash! Oh, the shenanigans that ensue! You can pretty much set a countdown clock to when hopelessly square James will turn up in the hood, sagging and sporting Locs and spewing street slang. And since Get Hard unspooled at SXSW last week, three questions have swirled around it: Is it racist? Is it homophobic? And if so, is it also… Read More

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Plants Become Animals and Legos Become ‘Jurassic Park’ : Links You Need to See

SXSW raged through Austin over the last couple weeks and kept the “weird” coursing through the city’s veins — Kevin Hart and Will Ferrel bolstered the weird factor when they accosted the festival-goers with a somewhat predictable (but incredible) explosion of awkward. In other SXSW news, those who were interested in the musical component of the festival — but not the physical craziness — can listen to these lullabies sung by SXSW artists; surely this will provide a welcome contrast to the otherwise frenetic energy of the event. … Read More

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“Healing Is Fun for Me”: Torres on Her Raw New Album and Why SXSW Is Still Worth It for Artists

AUSTIN, TX: Mackenzie Scott is having a moment, in more ways than one. When I meet up with the 24-year-old indie-rock singer-songwriter known as Torres outside a cafe called Cenote on Austin’s east side on Friday, the second to last day of SXSW, she’s just had to beg the employees working a private event to let her use their bathroom so she can have the decency of vomiting in private. “I haven’t been sleeping or resting or eating like I normally do when I’m at home, so I think it just took a toll on my body,” she says. … Read More

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Bands vs. Brands: The Trouble With SXSW’s Attempt to Please Everyone

AUSTIN, TX: I’m sitting in a pew at Austin’s Central Presbyterian Church, weeping silently in the dark, as alt-country singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile belts out a cover of The Avett Brothers’ “Murder in the City,” unamplified, 20 feet in front of me. At some point during the 90-minute performance on Wednesday (March 18) as part of Carlile’s Pin Drop Tour — the highlight of my own SXSW this year — I burped and it tasted like McDonald’s. What a buzzkill. … Read More

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Why Music Fans Need to See Colin Hanks’ Tower Records Doc ‘All Things Must Pass’

AUSTIN, TX: “Everybody in a record store is your friend for 20 minutes or so,” Bruce Springsteen announces in All Things Must Pass, Colin Hanks’ nerdy, nostalgic documentary about Tower Records, which premiered last week at SXSW after seven years in the making. As ex-Tower clerk Dave Grohl points out later, this is not necessarily true of most record store employees, who have a snobbish reputation. But Tower was different. … Read More

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From Online to IRL: Inside PC Music’s Debut Live Show at SXSW

AUSTIN, TX: At last year’s SXSW, word spread around Austin that rising UK producers SOPHIE and A.G. Cook had DJ’ed while a woman basked onstage in a kiddie pool, scrubbing big rubber balls with a sponge. It was a novel story to tell, about seemingly novel artists few had heard of at that point. If they had, it was definitely through the internet; explaining their collective, PC Music, definitely required visual aids and a thoroughly digital context. … Read More

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The Beautiful Story of Snoop Dogg and Willie Nelson’s 4/20 Trip to Amsterdam

AUSTIN, TX: As Snoop Dogg himself admitted this morning, the first thing he thinks about after waking up is smoking weed. So when I heard that he’d be giving the music keynote at SXSW — held at 11 AM in recent years — I wondered what kind of state he’d be in, as he discussed his career and the music industry for an hour. In this regard, the highlight of the conversation was incredibly on-brand: tales of a trip to Amsterdam. With Willie Nelson. On 4/20. To shoot a video for a song called “My Medicine.” … Read More

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The Best and Worst of the 2015 SXSW Film Festival

The SXSW Film Festival will continue through the weekend (albeit mostly with repeat screenings and music-related films, pegged to the concurrent music fest), but your correspondent has returned from Austin, with a belly full of BBQ and a head full of leftover images and snatches of dialogue from the 21 narrative and documentary films I took in over my week in Texas. Here are a few thoughts on each, along with the best and worst films I saw there. … Read More

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How SXSW Became a Haven for Mainstream Studio Comedies

AUSTIN, TX: “So do we like to laugh here at South by Southwest?” asked festival director Janet Pierson in the introduction to Monday night’s premiere of the Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart comedy Get Hard, and the reaction was, unsurprisingly, affirmative. Yet not all festival crowds might react the same way. The common perception of the “film festival movie” is something staid and serious and perhaps even dull: micro-budgeted black-and-white relationship dramas, documentaries on puzzlingly esoteric topics, maybe a coming-of-age-in-the-summer movie with a few mild chuckles. Director Paul Feig announced Sunday night, at the premiere of his comedy Spy, “Film festivals are a very dangerous thing, because we’re comedians and we do comedy, and we tend to be looked at the bastard children of real movies.” But comedy filmmakers — even those like Feig who work with big budgets for big studios — have found an unlikely home at SXSW. “Austin really opens up its heart and just allows us to entertain you,” he explained to the sold-out crowd at the Paramount Theater, which cheered wildly in response. … Read More

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