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No soul is more appropriate for the SXSW film festival than the late actor Warren Oates.

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Warren Oates was over six feet tall, which came as quite a surprise. I always thought of him as smaller. Usually with actors, the shock is how short they are, but those are stars being pumped up by the camera as larger than life. Oates was always of the place he inhabited, always seemed to be slipping downward into the earth. Sometimes he was the hero (Monte Hellman's Cockfighter) and sometimes the villain (Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country) but the distance wasn't that great. Oates was his own character; he fit few conventional Hollywood handles. But his was a character of force and energy, always figuring the angles, always scheming, always moving, usually forward. He dominated films he was in, whether as star (The Wild Bunch, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia), or as supporting player (Stripes, The Border). Oates died in 1982 at the age of 55 having acted in over 50 films. Still, this year's SXSW Film Festival and Conference basks in the brilliance of his work, the kind of anti-charisma of his best performances. Oates is in three of the four films in the Monte Hellman tribute (co-sponsored by the Austin Film Society), and there will be a screening of Warren Oates: Across the Border, a documentary on his life.

No soul is more appropriate for SXSW than Oates. SXSW isn't about Hollywood vs. independent film -- it is about making the films you want using the economic tools available. The Film Conference and Festival starts Friday night, March 10, with screenings at five theatres (the Dobie has two screens). There are a lot of terrific films scheduled this year. Screens editor Marge Baumgarten has lately been surrounded on all sides with the amount of films passing through. Working with the ever-talented Sarah Hepola, she put together the special SXSW Film section this issue.

I feel uncomfortable recommending any individual films because there are so many good ones, but I must note there is also a D.A. Pennebaker retrospective featuring four of his films, including Don't Look Back and the timely The War Room. In the last couple of days, I've heard both John Carpenter and Jerry Stiller are coming. It's going to be a great year!

On Saturday, SXSW Interactive begins with the largest attendance ever and probably the most comprehensive and quality programming. On Monday, our friend Denise Caruso is keynote speaker, which we're delighted about. Sunday's keynotes are Rob Burgess and Kevin Lynch, and on Tuesday, it is cultural legend Stewart Brand. The combined Film and Interactive Trade Show opens on Sunday; executive passes, good for admission, are only $15. Registration for the whole event -- including panels, workshops, trade shows, and parties -- is still available. In fact, registrations for all three of the events of SXSW week are still available.

The SXSW Music Conference and Festival is officially kicked off by The Austin Chronicle's Music Awards show at the Austin Music Hall, Wednesday, March 15. Someone asked me what act I was most excited about seeing, and I quickly confessed it was either the Sterling Morrison tribute hosted by Alejandro Escovedo and Tosca with special guest John Cale or the Doug Sahm tribute featuring Shawn Sahm and Augie Meyers (and I hear rumors the San Antonio horn contingent is going to show). Not that there isn't a ton of other stuff to be excited about, but this is a great awards show lineup. Margaret Moser has been beaming.

The rest of the lineup is just as strong, featuring Kelly Willis, the Texas Trumpets, Terri Hendrix, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Bob Schneider. It makes me a little giddy to think about it. Paul Ray is MC, Kerry Awn is the comic, and KGSR-FM 107.1 and KROX 101X are co-sponsors. Tickets are now on sale at all Star Ticket outlets. There will be only a very limited number of admissions sold to this show. SXSW Music badges and wristbands are good for admission. The staff seems amazingly calm, but starting that Wednesday, we will go into production on our three special daily issues covering SXSW that will be published next Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Things should go nuts. Bear with us -- this is an experiment.

The only thing to say about SXSW Music is to prepare for the onslaught. There will be music, music, music everywhere.

One more plug. Wednesday, March 15, at noon at the Alamo Drafthouse, in conjunction with SXSW Film, there'll be a screening of a short film shot in 1972 at what is now Threadgill's North, featuring Kenneth Threadgill in performance and more recent film or musical performances from the final days of Steamboat. Put this on your schedule as a visit to Austin legends. end story

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