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Top features at today’s SXSW

Staff Writer
Austin 360

“Chef” kicks off an eclectic lineup of narrative features at this year’s South by Southwest Film Conference today, and in keeping with tradition, the opening night film is a comedy — a little romp about doing the food truck thing in L.A.

Writer and director Jon Favreau stars as Carl Casper, a chef who loses his restaurant job and tries to get his creative juices going again by starting a food truck business. The premiere is set for 6:30 p.m. today at the Paramount Theatre, with Favreau, Emjay Anthony, John Leguizamo, Oliver Platt and Sofia Vergara walking the red carpet.

To help you navigate this year’s festival, we’ve selected some of our top picks among the narrative features that we’ve been able to see, plus some that we have not. We’ve also tried to highlight movies with Austin connections. Here’s what’s we’re recommending today.

“Things People Do”: This could be one of the year’s surprise goodies. Saar Klein, who worked as a film editor on Terrence Malick’s “The Thin Red Line,” directs this tale about a man who loses his job and hides the news from his wife. Then he starts a life of crime to make ends meet. Wes Bentley stars. Austin’s Sarah Green, a longtime Malick collaborator, is one of the producers. 6:30 p.m.today, Violet Crown. Also: 6:45 p.m. Saturday, Marchesa; 11 a.m. Wednesday, Alamo Village.

“She’s Lost Control”: San Angelo native Marc Menchaca plays Johnny, who hires a sex surrogate named Ronah (Brooke Bloom), who struggles to maintain her professionalism. Anja Marquardt directs. 7 p.m. today, Alamo Village. Also: 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Alamo Ritz; 9:45 p.m. Monday, Alamo Slaughter; 4 p.m. March 13, Alamo Ritz.

“Thank You a Lot”: A washed-up music manager in Austin faces losing his job unless he can sign a country singer who happens to be his estranged father. The father is played by real-life country star James Hand. The feature, directed by Austin’s Matt Muir, screens three times at the festival, so if you can’t make it today at 7 p.m. at the Topfer, there are two other chances: 9:30 p.m. Sunday, Marchesa; 11 a.m. March 15, Vimeo.

“The Frontier”: Max Gail, who played “Wojo” on the 1970s TV series “Barney Miller,” stars as a retired literature professor who writes a letter to his estranged son, who then decides to come home for a visit. It’s a drama that builds as the father and son begin to talk for the first time in years. Matt Rabinowitz directs. 7 p.m. today, Rollins. Also: 11 a.m. Saturday, Alamo Village; 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, Rollins.

“Ping Pong Summer”: This comedic 1980s period piece about a family’s summer vacation to the Mid-Atlantic shore comes from Austin filmmaker Michael Tully. It features Susan Sarandon, John Hannah, Lea Thompson, Amy Sedaris and Robert Longstreet. 9:30 p.m. today, Marchesa. Also: 10 p.m. Monday, Rollins; 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Topfer; and 4:30 p.m. March 15, Marchesa.

“The Infinite Man”: An unorthodox scientist invents time travel, but when he tries to change the past and create a great weekend with his girlfriend, things go awry. Hugh Sullivan of Australia directs, and this will be a world premiere. 9:30 p.m., Stateside. If you can’t make today’s screening, there are three others: 7 p.m. Saturday, Alamo Village; 6 p.m. Tuesday, Alamo Ritz; 2 p.m. March 15, Alamo Ritz.

“Kelly & Cal”: Juliette Lewis stars as a former punk rocker who has tired of being a suburban mom and longs for excitement. Then she begins a friendship with a 17-year-old man that changes both of their lives. Jen McGowan directs. 9:39 p.m. today, Rollins. Also: 11 a.m. Saturday, Alamo Slaughter; 7 p.m. March 13, Rollins.

“Bad Words”: Jason Bateman directs and stars in this broad comedy about a 40-year-old man who enters a children’s spelling bee. It’s a foul-mouthed affair, hence the title. And it turns out that the man is exploiting a loophole to exact revenge for having lost a spelling title many years ago. Bateman is expected to be in town for the screening, along with cast members Rohan Chand and Kathryn Hahn and screenwriter Andrew Dodge. 10 p.m. today, Topfer. This is the only screening at the festival. Bateman will participate in a conversation about the film at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Austin Convention Center, Room 16AB.

“13 Sins”: If you’re a late-nighter, you might want to check out this thriller about a hapless salesman who gets a phone call that puts him in the middle of a game that offers increasing rewards for every task he completes. But as he tackles the tasks, he discovers that each one is becoming more sinister. The world premiere is set for 11:59 p.m. today at the Stateside. Also: 11:59 p.m. March 13, Marchesa, and 11:59 p.m. March 14, Stateside.