Come Together

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the Midnight Matinee

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (trust us, it's him)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (trust us, it's him)
Photo by Marc Savlov

It's official: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Hollywood's most creative Renaissance hepcat. As if starring in the most romantic movie of last year – (500) Days of Summer, natch – while accreting authentic cinematic laurels in everything from Mysterious Skin to Brick (we'll not mention G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra) weren't enough, the insatiable Gordon-Levitt has branched off to direct, act, and produce viral Web videos and all manner of assorted ephemera under the aegis of While it seems a fool's errand to attempt a comprehensive description of March 20's Gordon-Levitt-emceed SXSW midnighter, it's safe to say that his brainchild,, is the future of Web-based (and real-world) entertainment, art, and the endless stream of what-have-you currently timesucking up lives by the nanosecond. What's inspiring about his umbrella group is this: Not only is his pseudo-manifesto ("art!") open to all manner of interpretation, and thus creation, but it also blends various media into a strange and wondrous whole. In its octopoid essence, is tailor-made for the ADD, YouTube-addicted point-and-shoot generation.

As a charmingly tipsy Gordon-Levitt noted from the Alamo Ritz stage on Saturday night, a collaborative production community such as this couldn't have existed even 10 years back. It depends both on emerging and affordable technology – video cameras, the Web, alcohol – to blend the creative streams together into a sometimes unrecognizable whole. Thus's Midnight Matinee was a cavalcade of short films, live music (featuring Gordon-Levitt on drums), a poetry reading, and, as if that weren't enough, a real-live video shoot in which the audience – or every audience member with at-hand videographing capabilities, which was pretty much everyone, including yours truly – thronged the stage to capture a performance that would then later be cut, chopped, and reassembled into a fully functional on-the-fly music video (you'll be able to see the results at This sort of audience participation isn't completely new; the Beastie Boys' concert doc Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That! messed around with the same idea. But Gordon-Levitt's paradigm of everyone doing their own thing, together, hearkens back to the communal creative explosions of capital-R Romantics Shelley, Byron, and Polidori. Which may explain why the hitRECord show felt more like a group of old friends trying to make new friends by letting them in on a supercool Frankensteinian experiment in artistic cross-pollination. Is this the future of free expression and art as we know it? Considering the fact that everyone left the theatre equal parts jazzed and tipsy, we certainly hope so.

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