A weekend multiverse with the Oscars and SXSW

Directing duo Daniels
Directors Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, from, “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” in the 2022 L.A. Times Photo Studio at SXSW.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
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Hello! I’m Mark Olsen. Welcome to another edition of your regular field guide to a world of Only Good Movies.

Thanks to a quirk of scheduling, the Oscars and the South by Southwest Film and TV Festival are both happening this weekend. And thanks to the multiverse created by Oscars front-runner “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which premiered at SXSW last year, the two events are more connected than they might initially seem. I, for one, will be doing my part covering the Oscars on Sunday from a hotel room in Austin, Texas. Who says this job isn’t glamorous?

The Oscars are coming! For anyone looking to catch up on this year’s Oscars ballot, Glenn Whipp has you covered with his predictions in all 23 categories. He has “Everything Everywhere” taking home five Oscars, including best picture. (And yes, he has “Naatu Naatu” winning best song.)

Speaking of “Everything,” Times staff writer Jonah Valdez went out to the coin-operated laundromat in San Fernando that provided the film with its central location to meet the real-life couple who run the place. The location has turned into an unlikely fan tourist destination thanks to the popularity of the film.


Jen Yamato, photographer Gary Coronado and myself were at last weekend’s Spirit Awards, where “Everything Everywhere” made an unprecedented sweep of categories, winning a record-setting seven prizes.

As Film Independent president Josh Welsh said, “What I love about the Spirit Awards is the breadth of our nominations, from films like ‘Everything Everywhere’ and ‘Tár,’ which are being recognized everywhere, and we also have these films that have less high of a profile or less visibility. And if some of them show up at the Oscars, more power to them.”

Glenn and Justin Chang also took a look back at the 2003 Oscars, the year of “Chicago,” “The Hours” and “The Pianist,” and found it to be both cringeworthy and emblematic of much of what has transpired with the academy since.

Glenn and Justin also filled out ballots of what should have won in 2003, a year that also included films such as “Far From Heaven,” “Spirited Away,” “Talk to Her” and “Y Tu Mamá También.”

SXSW is here! The South by Southwest Film and TV Festival — note the slight name change to formalize the fest’s longtime inclusion of television work in its program — begins today, with the opening night selection, “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves.”

I spoke to the new festival head Claudette Godfrey, who said she didn’t feel any pressure to live up to the success of “Everything Everywhere All at Once” while putting together this year’s program.


“How do you compete with that film? You don’t. It’s a singular vision. There isn’t another film that’s like that in the immediate future,” Godfrey said. “That’s never the goal of what we’re programming, to try to program Oscar winners. I don’t necessarily think the taste of South by Southwest is perfectly aligned with the Oscar voting pool. But maybe now we are.”

And some of my fellow staffers offered their most anticipated projects of the festival, including the films “Bottoms,” “Problemista,” “Flamin’ Hot” and “Furies,” and the television projects “Beef,” “I’m A Virgo” and “Swarm”

We’ll have more coverage coming from SXSW, including my interview with Eva Longoria, who makes her feature directing debut with “Flamin’ Hot,” and writer and performer Rachel Sennott, at the festival this year with two films, “Bottoms” and “I Used to be Funny.”

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‘Scream VI’

Directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett from a screenplay by James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, “Scream VI” is the first film in the venerable horror franchise without an appearance by original star Neve Campbell and the first film set outside the fictional town of Woodsboro, Calif. This time, Sam Carpenter (Melissa Barrera) has moved to New York City with her sister Tara (Jenna Ortega) and yet the pair still find themselves stalked and terrorized by someone in a Ghostface mask. The movie is playing now in theaters.

For Tribune News Service, Katie Walsh wrote, “The closest analogue to ‘Scream VI’ is ‘Scream 2,’ which is directly stated by the film’s resident Randy (the first ‘Scream’s’ horror expert and audience surrogate), his niece Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown). Both films leave the high school setting for college, introduce new characters and tangle with the academic side of horror. It’s bigger, shaggier and a bit messier than its predecessor, and while it bears other fun similarities to ‘Scream 2,’ mentioning more ventures into spoiler territory. … Last year’s ‘Scream’ proved that this filmmaking team were worthy heirs to Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson’s iconic franchise, and while ‘Scream VI’ underlines that point, it also illustrates that there’s still a rich vein to tap, using established lore to take the preeminent slasher movie IP in new and fascinating directions.”


For the New York Times, Jason Zinoman wrote, “’Scream’ has always been as much of a whodunit as a slasher, so more characters do provide opportunities for misdirection, but the problem here is not just an excess of people. … Self-awareness will not fix plausibility or pacing issues or make your movie scarier. It could help a comedy, though, and perhaps that’s the best version of these movies, which would suggest that the filmmakers lighten up and ignore the die-hard horror nerds altogether, along with the snooty critics from The New York Times. How’s that for meta?”

For, Monica Castillo wrote, As far as ‘Scream’ sequels go, we’ve seen worse, but the wear and tear of the years are showing on Ghostface’s mask. The script is serviceable but surface-level, bringing up interesting ideas but never following though on them. The movie mentions trauma and how characters cope early on, but those concerns almost immediately evaporate when the nightly news announces the first murders. … As far as sequels go, ‘Scream VI’ is a strange, self-referential beast, a snake eating its own tail with nothing left. What will it take to give it fresh blood and move forward?”

For Entertainment Weekly, Joshua Rothkopf wrote, “None of them are safe (you knew that), not in a bodega, not on the subway, not in their apartments. It’s a movie in which the actual city doesn’t register, like a ‘Friends’ episode: The One With the Relentless Stalker. Splattery, puncture-heavy violence — the hard-R rating is earned — alternates with deadening rafts of therapy-speak, including an actual therapy session. But there’s no deeper meaning to any of it; the ‘Scream idea, meta to its core, was always a preening celebration of its own cleverness, never mind the occasional half-explored nods to toxic fandom or cancel culture. When the final showdown goes down, in a museum filled with artifacts from the other films, you’ll realize that such a hall of mirrors will never be built. No one loves these movies quite that much — not as much as the movies love themselves.”

Melissa Barrera, left, and Jenna Ortega in the movie "Scream VI."
(Philippe Bossé / Paramount Pictures)


Directed by Bobby Farrelly, making his first solo feature without his brother Peter, from a screenplay by Mark Rizzo and based on a 2018 Spanish film, “Champions” stars Woody Harrelson as a minor-league basketball coach who is sentenced to community service coaching a team of intellectually disabled adults. Also starring Kaitlin Olson and Cheech Marin, the film is in theaters now.

For Tribune News Service, Katie Walsh wrote, “What helps enliven ‘Champions’ is what enlivens Coach Marcus himself — the team, called the Friends, which is cast entirely of actors with similar disabilities to their characters. Some are veteran actors, some were cast from their experience as Special Olympics athletes, and others make their screen debut in the film. … ‘Champions’ doesn’t break any molds, narratively or aesthetically, and it’s too long, but what sets it apart are the Friends, who offer warm and nuanced performances, and excellent representation for the disabled community, which has either been largely ignored on film or relegated to inappropriate punchlines or condescending stereotypes. Farrelly and Rizzo, working with the original material of ‘Campeones,’ and the actors, offer a depiction of these characters and their lives as full with responsibilities, relationships, and joy. When Coach Marcus comes along, he’s just the icing on the cake. They were champs before he showed up, and the film is his journey to realizing that.”


For the New York Times, Ben Kenigsberg wrote, “While the Farrellys of three decades ago gleefully cut against the grain of political correctness, Bobby this time seems to have embraced it, making a celebration of sensitivity and empowerment that is kindhearted without ever risking touching a comic third rail. The dispiriting experience of watching ‘Champions’ is slowly realizing that, notwithstanding an off-color line here or there (a player with Down syndrome introduces himself as ‘your homie with an extra chromie’), it’s exactly the sort of formulaic crowd-pleaser that just about anybody might have directed.”

For IndieWire, Esther Zuckerman wrote, “On one hand, Farrelly has made an earnest attempt at a feel-good comedy, complete with its share of moments meant to tear-jerk about an underdog team subverting prejudice. On the other, it operates from a place of ignorance that assumes its audience will laugh at that ignorance and recognize it in themselves … What emerges is a film that lands in an uncomfortable space between understanding and mockery. Like its grouchy hero, it wants to be applauded for its tolerance, while also mining laughs out [of] its characters’ differences. It almost feels imported from the ’90s — when it would have been more novel to argue that people with intellectual disabilities deserve the barest level of respect. Now, it just feels out of date.”

For, Marya E. Gates wrote, “‘Champions’ follows the basic plot of every other inspirational sports movie about a hangdog coach in need of redemption. But it has the added cringiness of using its team of Disabled basketball players solely as a method towards this redemption while completely failing to see their humanity. … The filmmakers never actually bother to spend any time with these characters as they live their lives. Instead, they show the audience their lives from an almost anthropological distance. The filmmakers see them solely as teaching tools for Marcus and the audience, not complex human beings worth spending real time with.”

A basketball coach rallies his players and supporters in the movie "Champions."
Kevin Iannucci, from left, Kaitlin Olson, James Day Keith, Madison Tevlin, Cheech Marin and Woody Harrelson in the movie “Champions.”
(Shauna Townley / Focus Features / TNS)

‘Chang Can Dunk’

Written and directed by Jingyi Shao, “Chang Can Dunk” is about a 5 foot 8 Asian American high schooler who makes a bet with the school’s basketball star that he can dunk a ball before homecoming. After appearing on the Black List of best unproduced screenplays in 2020, the movie is now streaming on Disney+

For The Times, Justin Chang wrote, “As tiresome as it can be to see old stories repackaged in new colors, the practice can and does yield a few culturally illuminating dividends. Jingyi Shao’s script (which he also directed, slickly enough) may tend toward the pat and overly expository, but 16-year-old Chang (Bloom Li) is, for the most part, refreshingly hard to pigeonhole. He’s smart and well-rounded, athletically and musically; he can be goofy, awkward, charming, arrogant, shy and outspoken. No one calls him a racist slur (or really thinks to call him anything but Chang, his surname-turned-nickname), but stereotypical assumptions about Asian masculinity are in the very air he breathes. … ‘Chang Can Dunk’ gets that the pursuit of fun, seemingly frivolous goals can be meaningful in itself, especially when undertaken with the loving encouragement of friends and family. It also knows there’s a time to shine and a time to recede, though its truest lesson is one that some of us have long taken to heart: Be the Chang you wish to see in the world.”


For the Hollywood Reporter, Frank Scheck wrote, “It’s easy to think that the latest offering on Disney+will be yet another inspirational, underdog sports movie. After all, the film concerns a 16-year-old Asian-American high-school student who sets out to prove that he can perform a slam dunk despite his underwhelming 5’8” height. So you can expect that by the end of ‘Chang Can Dunk’ the titular hero will defy the odds, defeat his foe and win the hearts of everyone concerned. Right? Well, yes and no. … But the filmmaker, making his feature debut, also has more interesting things in mind, delivering a darker, more complex story that nonetheless proves utterly heartwarming by the end.”

Zoe Renee, Bloom Li, Dexter Darden and Ben Wang in the movie "Chang Can Dunk."
(Stephanie Mei-Ling)