SXSW Music Headliners & Best New Movies

By Phill Powell

Deep in the heart of Texas, South by Southwest (SXSW) 2015 is underway. Crowds of SXSW attendees pack Austin, eager to take in the latest movies and music.

willie-nelson-sxsw
American musical icon Willie Nelson is headlining his own mini-music festival at his ranch outside Austin during SXSW 2015.

SXSW 2015: Film (March 13-21)

150 feature films will screen at this year’s conference and a few are getting really big buzz:

Ex Machina
Directed by: Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine)
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson
ex-machina

What it’s About: This ultra-modern love story is not “boy-meets-girl.” It’s “boy-meets-robot-girl,” when an average guy comes into contact with a software genius who has built the ultimate in AI. (Both actors will appear in even wider release in the upcoming “Star Wars” movie.) We’re already hearing good buzz about the film’s strong visual effects.

Trainwreck
Directed by: Judd Apatow
Starring: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader
What it’s About: Now we’re back to “boy-meets-girl,” but she’s not just any girl. She’s stand-up comic Amy Schumer, who’s slated to appear at SXSW. She wrote and stars in this romantic comedy opposite SNL master impressionist Hader. In a clever spin, she’s the one who’s scared of commitment when she falls for Hader. He’s a doctor. She’s, well, a trainwreck. (And, in the film cameo of the year, LeBron James reportedly shows up and steals the flick like he’s pouncing on a rebound.) Directed by comedy master Judd Apatow.

Steve Jobs: Man in the Machine 
Directed by: Alex Gibney
Starring: Steve Jobs
steve-jobs-man-in-the-machine

What it’s About: We’ve seen other Jobs documentaries before, but this one promises to not only re-examine the legacy of the Apple genius but also get into his personal life (which he actively tried to keep private). The film is also said to explore our evolving relationship with the computer.

Fresno
Directed by: Jamie Babbit
Starring: Natasha Lyonne, Aubrey Plaza, Fred Armison
What it’s About: Comedy follows misadventures of sisters who work as hotel maids in the California title town. Lots of comedy firepower, from Lyonne (Orange is the New Black), Plaza (Parks and Rec) and Armison (Portlandia, SNL). Fred Armison actually got his comedy start at SXSW back in the late 1990s, when he made short films of himself interviewing bands playing at the show. Now he’s back, starring in a film that will open at the same event that gave him his start.

Lost River
Directed by: Ryan Gosling
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Christina Hendricks, Eva Mendes
What it’s About: Director and writer Gosling (that’s right…that Ryan Gosling) has already shown his movie at the Cannes Film Festival, but since then he may have re-edited this odd flick that stars Hendricks (Mad Men) as a single mother trying to protect her family at all costs in a strange town where nobody’s up to any good. Expect a tight piece of film production from Gosling, who will be in attendance for the screening of his film.

SXSW 2015: Music (March 17-22)

SXSW has become such a big deal that many musical acts do not announce far ahead of time whether they’ll be appearing, preferring to surprise everyone by turning up at the last minute. But here’s a collection of the major talent that is expected to show up in Austin in mid-March:

  1. Big Sean (Rap)
  2. Arcade Fire (Indie Rock)
  3. Skrillex (Electronic Dance Music)
  4. Awolnation (Rock)
  5. Willow Smith (Hip-Hop/R&B)
  6. Fall Out Boy (Rock)
  7. Bleachers (Indie Pop)
  8. The Zombies (60s Rock)
  9. Drake (Rap)
  10. Belle & Sebastian (Indie Pop)
  11. Sam Hunt (Country)
  12. Milo Greene (Indie Pop)
  13. Kendrick Lamar (Hip-Hop)
  14. Courtney Barnett (Indie Rock)
  15. Shamir (R&B/Dance)
  16. The Black Keys (Rock)
  17. The Church (Australian Psych Pop)
  18. TV on the Radio (Rock)
  19. Angel Haze (Rap)
  20. Bush (90s Alt Rock)

Surprise Guests
And there’s no telling who else will be making a surprise visit. When rapper Big Sean appears, for example, it won’t be surprising if Kanye West shows up to perform alongside him, like he did in 2012. (West handles music production chores for Big Sean, who is now touring with Rihanna, who might also appear.) Last year’s musical headliner was Lady Gaga, so you can bet that whoever headlines this year will also be a major music act. And since Big Sean is currently romantically involved with another musical star, it wouldn’t shock anybody to see Ariana Grande also turn up at SXSW.

This year’s Music Keynote Speaker, an honor previously bestowed on musical figures such as Johnny Cash and Bruce Springsteen, will be given to Rapper and Hip-Hop artist Snoop Dogg. No word yet on what his speech will contain.

kanye-west-sxsw
Will he or won’t he? Kanye West has played SXSW before…and could show up this year.

One American music icon who will definitely be at SXSW 2015 is Austin resident Willie Nelson. Nelson has sold more than 40 million albums in the U.S. alone, and one of his classic albums (1978’s Stardust) remained on the Country music charts for 540 weeks…more than 10 straight years. Nelson will headline and host a mini-festival here at his ranch just outside town during SXSW, featuring 20 music acts.