|FantasticFest 2006 (09.21.06 - 09.28.06, 27 movies)|
|09.21.06||Haze||Shinya Tsukamoto||So here we go! Fantastic Fest 2006! Twice as long as last year, twice as many movies, twice as many things that I'll have to miss due to constrictive scheduling... Oh well! I'll cry about it later, right now I'm too busy enjoying a genre film festival held entirely at the Alamo!|
We'll see how long these notes end up being. With 8 full days of this, they might get pretty brief depending on how much sleep I'm getting. This wont be coverage for any site though so at least the pressure to form complete sentences and spell check is off... which is nice.
So my first movie of the fest, after getting my badge (which is a bottle opener shaped sort of like a hatchet), poster, tshirt, little chainsaw keyring, and envelope with various little bits of goodness (alas no spare SXSW bag this year though), was a movie called Haze. It was made by the dude behind Tetsuo: The Iron Man, which sort of stands in infamy for me. When Netflix first started up, a friend of mine joined just to rent that movie. I was a little traumatized by it. Since then I think I've only seen one or two more of his (A Snake of June being one of them), but recognize that he's pretty influential in both Japanese and western cinema for breaking some ground. A film of his played here last year (Marebito) that I was strongly warned against seeing so I didn't. This year though, I decided to throw caution to the wind and check him out.
The thing is, and I don't know if this is just this one and Marebito or an ongoing trend in his work, Tsukamoto has shifted into these really miniscule budget small DV films with him doing pretty much everything but holding the camera (he can't because he's the star... pretty much the only actor). So working in that world kind of limits some options and creates a specific kind of film that either works or doesn't work depending on the viewer. This is my rationalization for why some people hated Marebito bad enough to tell me not to see it even if i was paid, and others thought it was pretty good.
Haze is... well I take it to be a nightmare film. It probably has some deeper, much more significant meaning to it but... for me it's just a nightmare. The film starts off with no exposition, no character background, no establishing shots, no nothing... it's just him in this tight space getting injured. It actually reminds me of that movie Cube in a way because it doesn't bother with any sort of set-up, it just starts. But, unlike Cube, Haze is only 50 minutes long so it never bothers to stop and inject any sort of lame reasoning or outcome to it... it's just scene after scene of Tsukamoto in these maliciously designed spaced being physically tortured for no reason. One scene in particular has him stuffed into this corrider so tight that his mouth is forced open against a metal pipe, buth barbed wire under his heels so he has to stand on his tippy toes and slide down this corridor, scraping his teeth on the metal, to get out. The sound effects are particularly effective.
However, there's some weird little dialogue toward the end then it gets even weirder right at the end and it kind of left me like... well on one hand I had to admire it because it didn't bother with any of the traditional horror movie filler... it just got straight to the point and did its thing. But on the other hand, it felt kind of like an empty gesture. With nothing to latch onto emotionally or with any sort of commitment to his character, it kind of came off as an unsettling video art installation piece. Without any real narrative, it's basically just sitting through watching torture, which is pretty torturous in itself.
So I ended up thinking it was OK... nothing to call to the heavens but... I dunno... I'm don't feel completely cheated of my time.
What's interesting to note is that since this film is only 50 minutes long, they paired it with a 30-minute short beforehand called Oculus.
Oculus is actually a pretty cool idea... this guy locks himself in a room and videorecords himself in an effort to prove that a particular mirror is haunted/evil. While he sits there he tells us all about the mirror's history and it killed his parents blah blah blah and he slowly goes insane. Now... this would actually make a pretty cool short story I think... On the page, all of that interesting exposition while he sits in a white room with videocameras running would come off pretty well... I actually got sort of a Richard Matheson meets Stephen King's Room 1408 meets Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves vibe from the idea and execution... it's just a shame that it's a short film instead... Not only is it up to this one actor to pull the entire short off, it's kind of forced into having to be too long in an effort to sell that he's slowly going insane... It's something that works in your head as an idea but the end product gets old.
|09.21.06||The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning||Jonathan Liebesman||So I literally left Haze, crossed the hall, and entered Chainsaw. This is the big opening night film with the director, two producers, Jordana Brewster, R. Lee Ermy, and the dude who plays Leatherface all in the house. Greg Nicotero was also there but didn't get up and answer questions about the gore... So the house was pretty packed... not quite Borat packed but pretty damn packed. They had to bring out the folding chairs again so it was about as full as that theater can get. People excited to see the new Chainsaw... I almost felt like a traitor or something because I was only mildly interested. While I thought the remake was better than I expected it to be, I still wouldn't classify it as good... so a prequel to the remake just seemed... I dunno... I guess numbers don't matter any more anyway but still... I was hesitant.|
So a couple things about the movie. R. Lee's in it a lot. Like he's the main non-victim speaking role... and they really made him the tentpole of the whole messed up family... maybe that's a bit like making Boba Fett the blueprint for every storm trooper in all the Star Wars films? maybe not... who knows. I like R. Lee though so I was happy he got a nice juicy role to play into.
The movie for me is a polaroid representation of contemporary American horror film... it's really slick, uses tons of filters and inserts on ugly things and tries very hard to recreate a gritty grimy 70s feel that just came naturally back then, it's got a constant bed of ambience music specifically designed to put you on edge or unsettle you in some way, the gore is always shot quick, cut quick, and as close as they can make it to really not have to show anything, the sound effects are really what makes the gore in this movie. For the most intense scenes, I'd say there's really only about 8 frames of truly offending footage... it's just put together in such a honed manner to sell you on the thought of it. It's really the school of Psycho mastered.
You don't get any ghosts or creepy kids or creepy kid ghosts or super long takes of people looking at something though which seems to be what Japanese horror is all about these days so... I'm not sure which one I'd rather have.
There are some pretty brutal scenes in here though... again, mostly sound effects, but still. Probably my favorite gag is when one victim gets in a car and starts driving off, Leatherface puts a meat hook into her and pulls her right the hell out of the car. You don't actually see anything, but the shot they do have is cool enough to sell the idea and again, I guess that's what counts. There is a lot of gore in the movie though... lots of blood and body parts laying around and things of that nature... for today's standards it is a pretty hard R, which the director said they really had to push and fight for in order to get Chainsaw back to the top in terms of gore.
Maybe 75% of the way through the movie, the Alamo waitstaff brings out little bowls of... it was either chili or meat stew... and passes them out to everyone. I ate mine because I know once I get down the road, no matter how full or not in a mood to eat I was, it'd sound like a pussy move to NOT eat the free mystery meat chili while watching a Texas Chainsaw Massacre... so I ate it all up although pretty much everyone around me chose not to. I can understand that... the smell of the meat permeated the entire theater and coupled with what was going on up on the screen... plus not knowing exactly what it was in that little bowl... well it was definitely a leap of faith. That i took. It tasted good. mmmm!
The ending of the movie is also pretty cool Spoilers for this paragraph!!! so.... they kill Jordana Brewster... so the survivor girl doesn't get away. and not only that, they also kill two random people as they kill Brewster so it's a nice little scene. And right after they they got John Laroquette to reprise his narration... sort of ending the movie with the beginning and whatnot. A nice touch I thought.
My take on the movie was... I liked it more than the 03 remake... but still am pretty mediocre on it. It's basically the same exact movie as the remake... overall I thought it was just OK.
|09.21.06||The Last Supper||Osamu Fukutani||So after Chainsaw I was in a cannibal mood and decided to double up on my Asian horror tonight (I am actually not an uber Asian horror fan... throughout the rest of the fest I think I am keeping it to a limit of one per day) and see this movie about a plastic surgeon who likes to eat human flesh.|
This is like the flipside of the Chainsaw cannibalism. It's all high brown and white collar, it's presented like haute cuisine like this guy could have Hannibal Lector over for a dinner party and talk about the palate or whatever... and it's also all about the cannibalism rather than being a gorefest with the whole eating people thing just another detail to creep you out. Here, it's front and center.
And what I thought was funny... and I guess it's actually common to the entire genre so I always think it's funny, is that human flesh apparently tastes really really great. Like this guy is kind of a nerd... he starts eating humans and BAM! he becomes this ultra-sexy, ultra-successfull guy that people call God. Unsuspecting ingestors are wow'd by the taste... it's the best meat they've ever had! Yet they aren't creeped out when he says it's "secret meat that only he has." How many times does the average person hear that? If i was in a diner and had a good sausage and asked what it was... if I didn't hear like, Jimmy Dean, or Garlic-stuffed Pork or something... I'd be pretty suspicious. Especially if it was just some filet... there are only so many kinds of meat... that list is pretty short. Beef? no. Pork? no. ... Venison? no. ok now I'm worried. Maybe it's like a movie-universe thing where people in pre-postmodern movies aren't aware that movies exist... so like people in cannibal movies don't really have cannibalism on their mind. Or maybe I'm just a weirdo who is quick to suspect cannibalism wherever I can... All I know is if something told me it was "secret meat" I'd be suspecting the worst.
Anyway, this had a funny Scottish short, also cannibalism-themed, before it that was a pretty good lead-in. The first half hour or so of this movie is pretty great. There's a scene where he takes liposuction fat and cooks it up and eats it that totally turned my stomach... him saying how it was treated with saline and anesthetic so it tasted all salty and medicinal but he ate it anyway... and there's this whole sexual side to it where he had to stop eating beef and pork because he didn't like the thought of fucking a cow or pig. The actual body part-type gore gore was pretty sub-par though... especially after the KNB-level stuff going on in Chainsaw...
The biggest plague of this movie though wasn't the fakey body parts. It was the music. The score for this movie is absolutely horrible, and it's laid over the entire movie. It really makes the movie feel twice as long... it actively hurts it. The movie's last hour gets a little sluggish as it is, so with the really bad music it becomes pretty unentertaining, which is a shame because I really liked the first half hour. Some stuff toward the end was good too (he actually uses a decapitated head as a weapon, beating someone's brains in with a woman's head), but it gets uneven and a little contrite.
Still though, I probably enjoyed this movie most of the night... It made me hungry for human flesh so I could steal their sense memories and become sexier.
|09.22.06||Blood Tea and Red String||Christiane Cegavske||Day 2. The next two nights' notes will be the most pressed for time since the weekend schedules start at 1 instead of 3. Pretty respectable crowds for everything today... I'm waiting to see what Monday's like. While I'm glad to see the festival doing well, waiting for an hour in line to see a movie i'm barely curious about kinda wore me down. Today's films were a steady ramping up of enjoyment for today, starting with this odd little stop-motion animated fantasy film.|
Sorry, Kier-La but I just couldn't get into this movie at all. I guess it took the director 13 years to make it so maybe it's tough to face cutting scenes that took you months to animate just for the sake of pacing... but man did it need it. There are a few scenes in here which just go on way too long... and it isn't helped by the fact that all of the movie's communication is via little animal chirps and grunts... no dialogue... so what little story happening is all very vague and weird and obtuse.
So... I guess I can explain it as being about a group of albino mice-men who are maybe enemies with another group of brown rat-men with bird beaks... or maybe they just amicably co-exist in the segregated groups I don't know. Anyway, there's some business with this little doll of a woman and they sew an egg into her belly and it births as a woman-bird that gets caught in an old-maid spider's web. Along the way, the albino mice-men play poker with blank cards, drink red tea, and get in a fight when one of them cheats. I think. That was actually my favorite scene if you took away the five minutes of a half dozen clocks ticking that made up the soundtrack. There's also a stagecoach pulled by a turtle... and the rat- and mice-men all wear fanciful royalty clothes... and apparently it all takes place in a teapot.
Whatever. If this was like an 8 minute short it'd be tolerable as something to sit through before going on to the main feature (much like the forgettable short before this was), but at 70 minutes... that's a long time to not have any clue what the hell is going on. At least for me it is. So I can see the work that went into this... she gets an A for effort... and it certainly was different. I was actually reminded just a smidge of Henry Darger's work in that it presented some weirdo original fantasy world... but it wasn't for me.
|09.23.06||Renaissance||Christian Volckman||So next up was a completely different kind of animation and much higher expectations. For those that know my interests with design and the stuff I do for my mixtapes and medialife website, this movie's visual aesthetic is 100% right up my alley. All stark black/white stuff with occasional dips into the monochromatic spectrum but for the most part it's either black or white and yes the whole movie is that way.|
So visually, I thought it was quite stunning. Pretty much every shot if not every frame could be paused and shown as a poster or a page in a design book I thought... seeing it moving varies between really impressive and detail overload since your brain is doing so much work to interpret the shapes...
Unfortunately, at least for me, the story was fairly weak. For one it was too complicated... and maybe the story itself is actually not that complex at all, but for me... after deciphering the image and figuring out which character was which (they tried their best to distinguish between people, either with haircuts or wardrobe or body shape or whatever, but it's still tough to tell them apart when you see so little of them), following the actual scene always left me a little behind and a little disconnected. It's weird but for such a visually compelling movie I found myself bored in a few places. I just couldn't follow the story and when I could, i wasn't that interested. It's a pretty typical sci-fi cop mystery sort of story... like Minority Report or Blade Runner, set somewhere around circa-2053 Paris.
Again, I hate to call this movie bad because i was so turned on by what I was seeing. Still though, I left the theater pretty unfulfilled due mainly to the story. I remember when the first Sin City footage was released on the internet and some people complained, saying the movie should be the artwork through and through... I think this is a good reinforcement to the direction Rodriquez took with it... While it is pretty, it gets in the way after a while.
|09.23.06||Gamerz||Robbie Fraser||Next up was this Scottish comedy about a bunch of nerds who play D&D-esque role playing games. It's actually pretty good... It made me chuckle occasionally... There's a hot goth girl in it... and it actually seems like they got the gaming part... well, close to right. I guess every nerd had his (or in two cases her) own experience with how you sat in the basement playing these games on weekends - I myself never wore a cloak - but I think a lot of this movies charm relies on the nerdy audience's memories not totally disagreeing with how the character on screen play. I myself still hold up a short bit of machinema as being the perfect dramatization of gaming... but hey, this one comes close.|
There is a bit of a dramatic turn in it though... and some stuff weighs it down so I can't really call it uproariously hilarious or anything like that, but it does have its charm and I think it succeeds as a film. I was pleasantly surprised, mostly due to the "Z" at the end of the title. With a title like GamerZ, my expectations are pretty damn low.
So while I liked this, I've still yet to see a break-out loving-it movie... Last year I guess I was lucky because it was right off the bat with Strings... This year though... well maybe it's coming up.
|09.23.06||Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream||Stuart Samuels||So this entry was kind of tainted because it's been showing on Starz and Encore for like a year... who cares though, I don't get Starz and I really wanted to see this. As a pleasant surprise, they actually had a 35mm print of it! And what's more, the print actually looked a bit dingy like it's been run a few times... all adding to the subject matter and the atmosphere of the piece.|
Basically, this doc talks about the handful of movies that drove the "midnight movie" phenomenon throughout the 70s and changed the way movies are today. El Topo, Night of the Living Dead, Pink Flamingos, The Harder They Come, Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Eraserhead. Film clips, talking head insterviews, some vintage interviews, news footage, news print review blow-ups, and other various supporting visuals make up the doc in surprising quality. It does have a small TV doc vibe but mostly it's just interesting, informative, and entertaining... which I think is all you can ask for in a doc.
I love how specific theaters had importance back then... I suppose they still do today, with the Alamo being a prime example, but it really makes me wonder if it'll be mentioned in docs 20 years down the road like The Elgin is here... if they'll have an aging Tim league in a loud t-shirt talking about when a bonkers-crazy Russ Meyer showed up to talk about his films or when Eli Roth got the kids to show their Raiders of the lost Ark adaptation for the first time... we'll see I guess.
Anyway, I had a lot of fun with this movie... probably the most fun of the 7 I've seen so far. It totally makes me want to read the Midnight Movies book... and I'm sad I missed Lars' intro because I'm curious if he mentioned any sort of split between exploitation movies, which had been going strong in drive-ins and grind houses before this whole "midnight movie" thing started with El Topo... and I guess they both died out at around the same time: video tape. I think it was John Waters though who said that exploitation was gone and sexploitation was gone... I'm not sure what time period he's referring to though because thanks to Lars I have seen PLENTY of both those kinds of movies seemingly centered around 74 which is two years after Pink Flamingos was made... just a little offshoot that interested me, especially because they didn't go after a Roger Corman interview for this and treated that whole world as separate, even though several of the seminal 6 movies started out with standard exploitation releases. I'm hoping the book gets more into that...
anyway, a good end to the night for me... watching a doc on midnight movies at midnight. Tomorrow holds at least one super secret special screening so i'm going to sleep tomorrow to make sure I'm not drowsy for it.
|09.23.06||Tideland||Terry Gilliam||day... 3? yes, day 3. Started today out with an afternoon showing of Tideland. This screened the night before to lots of talk afterward... I'd heard it sucks from way back, plus the fact that it played Toronto 05 and is still playing festivals... Other than that though, All I knew about it was that it stars some kid and Sarah Polley traded emails with Gilliam about her.|
So... my friend Aaron had the perfect synopsis for this movie... and if it wasn't a joke, it'd be pretty true. If this was called Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, I'd love it. The whole movie is populated with junkies, retards, and psychopaths... it deals heavily with taxidermy'd corpses... it plays like some freak dream... and I'd pity any normal person who accidentally drove down this road and found themselves in this world.
I guess it's a hard job for the kid to pull off since it IS mostly her throughout the movie and she has to do different accents for the little doll-head imaginary friends she has... but like a lot of Gilliam's stuff this movie is just too crazy for my tastes. I was happy to see Jeff Bridges in a small role... and there's a couple scenes that trip out of Gilliam's fantasy mind which are pretty cool visually speaking (one under water and another down a rabbit hole), but for the most part I found it pretty tedious. Again, if one of these characters ended up as leatherface in the last scene, I would've thought that it's awesome for them to take such an odd turn with the prequel... and these people ARE TCM-levels of messed up... there's plenty of morbid shit going on here, spiced with a few pedophilic overtones to make you feel good (unless you're a distributor)... so it really would fit nicely... too bad it's a Terry Gilliam movie instead.
Like Jarrette said afterward, it did seem more like a Gilliam movie than Brothers Grimm, it's just a shame that the story sucked.
|09.23.06||Severance||Christopher Smith||So after Tideland we got some food then sat in on an Aquisitions panel between SXSW Matt Dentler, John Pierson, and film buyers for Roadside Attractions and First Look Films. I basically wanted to see this to a) see what a Fantastic Fest panel would look like, b) silently make fun of everyone asking questions, and c) see how many times Pierson mentioned Roger & Me (only once, although Dentler brought it up a second time).|
Truthfully, it was a much better discussion than I thought it would be. That's largely due to the candor between the film buyers. Apparently, they decided that this was a minor enough event to be able to speak freely and dish some dirty about specific films that I'm used to only hearing about in vague ballpark figures. So that made it interesting for me, especially since I just finished reading Pierson's book (referred to as a bible multiple times) so this was like a 10-years-later epilogue saying how it all works now.
So after that people were already lining up for the super secret special screening at 9... All day we'd been thinking about it and had it narrowed down to either 300 or Apocalypto. During the panel Jarrette found out that it was definitely Apocalypto. wee. So thanks to the way they worked it with the lines, they let us watch Severance and not lose our places for the 9 show, which was nice because Severance really kicked ass.
It's like a Cabin Fever mixture of horror and comedy... mostly scary but constantly punctuated with some funny to keep it more of a fun type of horror than oppressive or Japanese. I hesitate to say anything specific because I think it's actually gonna come out here in some theaters, but the writer was in attendance and gave a quick Q&A where he said they're kicking around a sequel idea which revolves around a fantastic scene in the film... it actually sounds like a good sequel idea.
But the gist of this movie is a bunch of yuppie defence contractors go up for a team-building weekend at some rustic lodge and run into some psycho paramilitary types who kill them. Yeah, the idea sounds pretty familiar... but the movie comes up with really funny little touches to set it apart from the rest in the survival horror genre, and really plays well to audiences. It's the first non-doc of the fest that I've really actively enjoyed. Definitely one to keep on the radar.
|09.23.06||Apocalypto||Mel Gibson||So the big super secret film is a pretty early version of Mel's Mayan adventure movie. To be honest, this was not very high on my list of movies to look forward to. i was really impressed with the trailer last December, but... I hated The Passion and again I'd heard this wouldn't even have subtitles and stuff like that. so my expectations were pretty low.|
Well, it had subtitles.
The story is basically of a jungle tribe that gets attacked by a more civilized group of Mayans who capture the men and women of this more primitive tribe, walk them into their city, sell the women off as slaves, and use the men as human sacrifices. One man manages to escape and the whole last act of the movie is a big chase sequence with him running from a band of Mayan hunters. Along the way, you get glimpses of signs of the mayan culture on the brink of extinction... disease, famine, pollution, corruption... so it's really a message of a simpler, more primitive tribe trying to escape the oppression of a bigger dirtier new civilisation. But that's really just on the sidelines... mainly it's a big chase sequence.
um... So I have to say I enjoyed this movie. I think I am in the minority though... the majority of people sitting around me anyway all hated it. The person sitting next to me leaned over when the movie ended and whispered "Apoca-CRAP-o!" and some people said they spent the entire time making fun of it... One guy felt it was expoitive and just plain wrong... I dunno, I liked it. It tries to be authentic and atmospheric and yeah it has a few things to say which are obvious corrolaries to current events but you kind of have to look for them or put the pieces together yourself. Granted, there are a couple moments which... eh... and one scene in particular toward the end which made me laugh, and not in a good way... but hey, for a movie with a cast made up entirely of first-time indigenous people actors and all spoken in the Mayan language, I never found myself bored or tired. I don't know what to say... I enjoyed it.
It kinda did make me wonder though, because the trailer looked great and definitely like it was shot on film, yet what we saw here looked like cheap consumer-grade DV. I'm thinking that's because it's straight from the Avid and it hasn't been color timed at all yet and most of the effects aren't done and it was low resolution and blah blah blah... but I don't know. That's a hell of a difference if the film was indeed shot on film because lots of shots, especially in the jungle, look VERY DV. I'll be curious to see how the finished film looks in theaters, because I definitely expected the movie to look much much better than it did tonight. It's forgiven though because it's very much a work in progress. Actually all that stuff... music, sound effects, sound mix, visual effects, picture quality... it was all very temp or unfinished. A few times they had to put print on screen to explain a shot that didn't exist yet... but you know, that also kind of added to the fun of getting to see this movie so early... assuming it all looks and sounds much better in December.
So what's funny is... apparently they screened it for Harry today at 1 because they were paranoid and if he didn't like the film they wouldn't play it tonight. I think that's hilarious. So when you read Harry's gushing review of it, keep in mind that if he didn't love it, his already-announced super secret special screening would have to be cancelled.
|09.23.06||The District!||Aron Gauder||so yay for Apocalypto... for the midnight movie I was sold on the trailer for this Hungarian animated feature (Hunganime?)... It looked crazy and funny and the animation style was pretty far out. That's all more or less true... It starts off really crazy and I sort of stopped caring so much about the subtitles after 10 minutes because everyone was talking so fast and the dialogue was overlapping and I hated having to keep look down to read what was going on instead of looking at the cool animation... so in that respect it was a bit too much and, like Tim, I wish I understood Hungarian so I could absorb it all easier... but I still got a kick out of the premise. This kid's grandfather tells him that the road to life is money, money, pussy... so he figures out a way to get money in going back in time, killing a bunch of mammoths at the spot where he lives, then coming back after their bodies have turned into oil and striking it rich. From there though, the newfound oil creates global consequences... George W. Bush has a small role... Tony Blair appears wearing a Darth Vadar mask at one point... and in general things get a little crazier. Oh, and it's constantly punctuated with Hungarian rap songs... like there's so much of it that it could be considered a musical. Except it's hookers talking about tricks and stuff like that... but the basic skeletal story is ripped off from Romeo and Juliet.|
Again, I seemed to be in the minority, but I kinda dug this. Yes it was crazy and blaring and kind of obnoxious... like watching random cable channels late at night... but it was so colorful and original that I got a kick out of it. Now, it wasn't my favorite thing ever or anything like that... and I thought it ran out of steam, maybe should've ended 10 or 15 minutes earlier than it did... but still, I'm glad I saw it.
And now I'm going to bed because it's late and it's another full day tomorrow.
|09.24.06||Unrest||Jason Todd Ipson||ok catching up...|
This movie had a solid recomendation and sort of hung on the hook that the director was a surgeon so they filmed in a real morgue and some of the cadavers were real. Of course none of the bodies that the actors tough or anything, but the background bodies were... so the actors probably ended up smelling at the end of the day just like real med students...
The movie is indeed pretty decent. It's more or less you standard possession med student dead body talking to me type story... but there's some creepy medical type stuff going on and the supporting cast is actually very good. Unfortunately, the main girl is not... oh well.
so... yeah. kinda creepy... had its moments... a few problems, like the last 8 minutes and the main girl's acting and some of the lines they have her say (no joke, at one point she says
"rest in peace, bitch!") but overall i'd count it as a good movie and I walked out un-disappointed.
|09.24.06||The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes||Quay Brothers||A long time ago, one of my first netflix rentals actually, I checked out a disc of Quay Brothers shorts.... I'd heard they were very similar to the old Tool music videos that I really liked... twisted animation, baroque gothic-y type stuff... that sort of thing. The shorts were interesting but really varied in terms of my enjoyment... So, I walked into this movie pretty much expecting to be a little bored and maybe not get into it but curious enough to not want to pass up the chance to see it and hoping for the best as always.|
A super long and slow short preceded it which didn't help matters... and then this started unrolling and it was pretty much staring forward waiting for it to end. Thomas made the comment that it was like a home movie of David Lynch's garage sale... I think that's being kind. I'd say it was like that at its best parts... usually though it was a couple people either sitting or standing and talking to eachother about things that make no sense, intercut with weird little 2-second glimpses of animation that makes no sense. I guess it had a very deliberate visual design and style... so for those people who like Joel Schumacher movies for the costumes you might get a kick out of looking at this, but I am officially tired of very pretty movies with very weak stories.
I was so done with this movie that I had to take a break from the fest after it was over. I just couldn't take either one of the movies playing next, both sounding like a weird and confusing psychological thing involving madness or whatever, and opted to go downtown instead. Back into the lovely arms of Carrie and Cathy and Fernando and Joe and Karen and the lovely downtown atmosphere... It almost didn't matter what the show was.
|09.24.06||Frostbite||Anders Banke||Frostbite is a Swedish vampire movie that takes place during a month-long stretch of darkness in a small snowy town. It looks really good for its budget, has a pretty funny script, and is executed pretty well. I think if it was in English it would actually make money here in the states. It has a bit of a Buffy vibe going on with highschool students vamping out and stuff... my favorite scene involves a guy who's slowly taking on the symptoms going over to his girlfriend's parent's house for dinner... to find that her dad's a priest... and they're having garlic-braised chicken for dinner... he ends up taking more interest in the younger sister's pet rabbit instead.|
There are some problems though. The editing is a bit rough, overly relying on awkward wipes and fades to black too much, which makes the ending come out of nowhere. And one of the lead actresses kind of came off as bad to me, and some of the stuff gets pretty formulaic for a movie which seems all too aware of how much it's playing with the genre. Still though, good is great at this festival right now... I got some enjoyment out of the movie and i walked away liking it.
|09.25.06||Hatchet||Adam Green||OK So when i got wrangled into a way-too-long discussion after the movies last night, I inadvertantly stayed way past the letting out of Hatchet's first screening. So I got to see how excited people were after seeing it... The leatherface guy came up to us and gave us all high fives for no reason and the director did indeed stay out there talking to people until 4:30am. The next day I heard that a whole group of people from last night were here today to see it again. So this movie had some buzz. Apparently it sold out five nights at Tribeca... and did some equally buzzworthy things at other fests. So Fantastic Fest screened it in the smallest theater. people had to sit on the floor... To say that when the house seats 200 is one thing, to say it when the house sits 83 is another. Oh well, I guess the film has just a tiny bit more buzz now that it's played here and people had to sit on the floor to see it.|
All of that monkey business aside, it was a pretty fun movie. It looked pretty decent for its budget, had some cameos by Robert Englund and the guy who played Candyman, and the monster was played by Kane Hodder... So in its own completely separate way, this was similar to Behind the Mask in that respect... kind of a throwback to 80s slasher flicks: Monster, gore, and tits. This has some fun with all of those though, setting it during mardi gras to get the boobies, coming up with another monster mythology along the lines of Jason and Freddy, and executing some pretty cool gore gags that - GASP! - are shot so we can actually see what's going on!
Unfortunately, it sounds like the MPAA has a problem with some of the best gags on display here... which I think could really hurt the movie since that's one of the best things about it. The movie is not all quick cuts and gore-by-insinuation (probably because he didn't have the time or money to do the necessary coverage) so it's not like they can just make it slightly more cutty to save themselves... but however it ends up theatrically, the director said it was in the contract for Anchor Bay to release the director's cut on initial release though so it'll be seeable at some point.
so the movie's fun. It's got humor, familiar faces in the supporting cast (like the jump to conclusions dude from Office Space and one of Bill Murray's many many brothers). One thing of particular note is that all the vomiting that goes on in this film is actually real. which is awesome and gross at the same time. Like even the mouth-to-mouth puke is real. Something to keep in mind while you watch...
um... yeah so that's it. I liked this one... I think I still like Severance more, but this falls second as far as the fun horror movies go... it's good though, for sure.
|09.25.06||Bug||William Friedkin||So Bug was packed in the 200 seat theater... I don't think people had to sit on the floor but there were some folding chairs going on. I'm pretty surprised at the crowds this year... much larger than last year for pretty much everything. That's a good thing i suppose, but I don't particularly like it when I can't get a seat because the movie before it let out late. Luckily I had a saved seat but anyway...|
This one is about Ashley Judd and the creepy marine guy from World Trade Center hiding out in a crappy hotel room absessing about invisible bugs eating them alive. It's a claustophobic white trash story that borders on the line between really creepy and rounding the bend into dark comedy. Harry COnick, Jr. is also in a supporting role as a slimy ex-con... which he pulls off surprisingly well for me. Mostly its just these two though, going crazier and crazier throughout the movie.
It's a really good movie... even though I was kind of let down that I didn't get to see Billy Friedkin do an honest-to-goodness monster bug movie, this is a pretty suitable substitute... There are still some moments when blood and gore creep in that are pretty great and caused some gasps in the audience, but mostly it's just watching these poor crazy people destruct themselves. It's based on a play but it's really one of the few stories that felt like it could be a claustrophobic movie instead of a play in the first place... Yes there are some long scenes and it pretty much only takes place in one location but whether it's Friedkin or the writer or whoever, it didn't feel like I was watching a filmed play. Maybe it's because I don't see many horror or thriller plays... Ashley Judd wasn't going on long monologues about surviving incest or being unhappy or whatever typical broadway thing I'm used to seeing people "act" about... but yeah, for whatever reason the whole play aspect never bothered me, and it usually does.
Judd... I don't really like her much and she confuses me by being able to look so hot and so white trash pretty much interchangeably (in this one it's definitely more white trash) and I don't think she's that great an actress... in this she definititely does my favorite bit of physical acting of hers (and it plays in the background too), and while the role does stretch her limits some I mostly didn't feel like she was out of her depth, which I guess makes this a good performance for her. The dude was note-perfect though and really really creepy and funny at the same time. Awesome performance by Michael Shannon... he really makes the movie.
And, cool enough, Michael Shannon was in attendance to talk afterward. Tim was pretty funny by saying "i'm gonna give you th emic then step away because I don't want to be within 15 feet of you" to pretty big laughs. FUnny enough though, he said that in most of the productions of the play, the theaters they played in were very small, some seating only 50 people all of whom were a mere 15 feet away from the actors. So that actually gave a much heavier tone to the play because the audience is so close to it that at the end they are just really creeped out and have to leave right away... it's only in the film that you get some distance and can see how some of the stuff that goes on is actually pretty funny (as sick as that may sound). He was pretty candid in his Q&A, seemed like a very nice guy and was happy to see so many people loving his movie. I think up till now he's been "that creepy guy in lots of movies" and, while he still may not be Michael Shannon, he'll now be "that really creepy guy from Bug" to those that see this. It's really a stand-out performance.
And a really good movie.
on the stage it wasn't funny.
|09.25.06||The Host||Joon-ho Bong||Speaking of really good movies, this was awesome. It's a Korean monster movie BUT... hold up a second, curtail your expectations based on that phrase. It's like a very serious modern-day Korean monster movie. The creature is all CG instead of man-in-suit and it's shot beautifully and the story is really that of a family trying to rescue a young daughter than any sort of global town-wrecking rampage.|
The mosnter itself is a mutated fish-thing that lives in this river in Seoul and one day crawls up on the banks to start eating people. From there it actually becomes more about the government's response to the attack and what happens afterward. While funny, the movie is actually very sad. It's a strange line that it walks but it does it very well, alternating between the two emotions pretty rapidly... and then occasionally becoming Jaws levels of suspenseful fun whenever the monster attacks.
Actually what surprised me most is how much the movie tilts anti-bureacracy and government. The Korean govt. officials are portrayed with Kafka-esque levels of red-taped ignorance, and the American army and government are seen as downright nasty, using the event as an opportunity instead of taking care of the problem (gee, wonder where they get that). A lot of the suspense actually comes from these innocent family members as they struggle against the paralyzing web of government institution... which I didn't immediately suspect when I heard it was a Korean monster movie, ya know?
So this movie is I think the first film which I'd peg as Fantastic during this festival. I really liked Severance, thought Hatchet was really good, liked Unrest, Frostbite, and Apocalypto; Bug was great but this movie is fantastic.
|09.25.06||Northville Cemetery Massacre||William Dear, Thomas L. Dyke||Unfortunately, after three pleasant surprises that made the entire day fly by, a vintage biker film from the 70s... well I was looking forward to it and I liked it, but after the three previous it seemed a little long. Under previous titles Freedom, R.I.P. and Wheels of Death, Northville Cemetery Massacre is about a detroit motorcycle club that gets framed for raping and beating this girl so a psycho cop (who actually did the raping and beating) enlists an outraged father and a maniacal hunter to kill them all. Aside from a woman saying a great line (when asked if she wanted some pot, "no thanks, I heard it makes you wanna rape and kill"), my favorite scene was when the hunter explained his reasoning for being ok with killing bikers, explaining that like any good hunter, he's also an ecologist... and he sees this as protecting the herd, since bikers are born scum anyway. He delivers it straight and it's hilarious... but bad news for the bikers who proceed to explode in firecracker-triggered squibs of real blood from slaughterhouses and leftover hamburger. Half the fun of this movie was hearing the director talk about it before and after it played. He was filled to the brim with stories... I think he was just so excited that anyone would want to show this movie (and all 26 of us that showed up instead of seeing Severance) that he wanted to get every single story out of his head. Some were entertaining, like how the actor in the lead part had to be dubbed so he managed to hire a really young Nick Nolte to dub the whole part for $150 (if you can call like 3 scenes with dialogue the lead part), or how he got ex-Monkee Michael Nesmith to add a funky/good ol' boy score or how he managed to get the biker club to be in it and further troubles that came when the movie didn't make any money.|
I particularly liked the end... the bikers, well.. i'll just say it's not a shamshing success for the bikers... and since it isn't it kind of takes on this completely different message about America and freedom and where we're going... Sure the very very end is pretty obtuse and confusing, but just before that during the titular massacre it's just different from a lot of other biker movies to seem to want to say something.
but still, right after the host? come on... it was good and I'm happy I saw it but it couldn't compare to the rest of the day's films.
|09.26.06||The Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell||Jonny Gillette, Kevin Wheatley||Today's Fantafest started with this post-apocalyptic movie that I'd pretty much heard nothing about. Hey, post-apocalypse? I'm there... even though people in the theater were guessing at a strong Six String Samurai vibe... which, since I saw it alone on my tv instead of some "perfect" sxsw audience, was not good news. It is kinda like Six String Samurai in that it's post-apocalyptic and a comedy and really really cheap, but that's about where it ends. For one, I actually enjoyed this movie... and for another it didn't give me a headache so... bonus.|
I thought of this as a bad movie that I enjoyed though... the beginning is chock full of weird exposition since the movie is sort of structured like a TV documentary... well, sort of. It's like a crappy DV indie movie with an intruding TV doco busting in whenever it wants to. There's animation, there's historical footage, cheap CG graphics, and talking head interviews all kind of slopped together in a noisy soup of set up and character background. If you aren't immediately tickled by it all, it gets pretty grating. My friend wrote a note saying "I hate this movie" and passed it on.
But then it grows on you... by getting better. The exposition fades away as stuff starts to happen and the DV indie sort of takes over, pushing the TV doc out of the spotlight and the movie finds its rythm. My friend took his note off the table at a certain point and ended up liking it by the end.
For me, that's largely due to the lead actor... and I guess writer and co-director. Dude's like a cross between George Clooney and Vincent D'Onofrio with some Jack Burton sprinkled on top. His character... you know, I don't feel like getting into any of the story stuff... it's just too crazy. I mean, if the movie needs a half hour to set it all up, how am I gonna do it here in one paragraph? he just has the tailored "cool" role and plays it nicely.
So yeah... this was goofy and funny and kinda crappy but not so much to let it get you down. It was a fun time.
It also had a pretty decent short before it. Since the time has kind of crunched between my sleep and making it to the theater, I've stopped mentioning the shorts but they're still there, in front of most screenings to soak up time. There's been maybe two i didn't hate and this is one of them. It's a quick little scene between an old guy (the man who smokes in x-files) and a salesman and we find out as they talk that the guy's trying to buy a replacement body... but he doesn't have enough money. So the company that makes the artifical bodies has this employment plan to work off the bill but it basically turns you into a slave for 100 years... but the old guy has cancer so it's a basic choice between death and enslavement for 100 years. It manages to speak about some human truth while being interesting and entertaining and, most important for a short, short. So I was happy with that one... they should all be so good.
Afterward, I went to Greg Nicotero's panel. This was kind of a shame because I'd heard the ComicCon Grindhouse trailer was going to play... which was gonna be awesome. Unfortunately, we got the word one degree away from nicotero himself that it wasn't going to play. Why? Well apparently Robert Rodriguez was gonna come by and moderate the panel and present the footage to us but he's in LA. I can't speak to how or why he didn't make it but... that sucks. And it sucks worse for those of us who knew what we were missing.
Nevertheless, Greg played some clips from previous work and talked over them and paused them to tell us stories about the jobs and directors. The big surprise for me ended up being finding out that they had done the make-up effects on UHF, Weird Al's movie... I love that movie and knowing that makes me love it just a little more.
So it was still a fun time, still well worth going to. Something like this always makes for a good excuse to put someone in a position to hear all the typical things you really want to ask but don't when you actually talk to him in fear of coming off as too fanboyish. Kinda like when your parents visit town so you can go do all the corny touristy stuff that locals snicker at. Not that I talk to Greg Nicotero at all... but if i did, I'd have all these bases covered.
|09.26.06||The Woods||Lucky McKee||Next up was a real curiosity. I'd heard The Woods sucked but then was good again but was going to be on a shelf forever but then was going to be released but then not... Regardless of the quality though, Bruce Campbell and Patricia Clarkson in a Lucky McKee movie? hells yeah! Also, this gets extra points for making Shyamalan change the title of the movie he was shooting at the time to The Village (yep, this was shot that long ago).|
So now that we've finally gotten to see the movie?
Well it certainly doesn't suck. I liked it well enough. I think I was expecting it to swing pretty far one way or the other though so for it to just be a decent creepy movie kind of threw me for a loop.
It's about a girl who gets sent to this boarding school where the teachers are odd, and it's surrounded by spooky woods. In the Q&A afterward two people asked about an Argento influence... so I guess anyone that's seen Suspiria is prone to think that. And it IS reminiscent of Suspiria for sure. I thought it of as Suspiria meets The Guardian with a teaspoon of Carrie thrown in the mix.
At one point though... Bruce Campbell picks up an axe. The house liked that a lot. Especially because his role in this is pretty toned down for the most part, playing a repressed mid-60s dad.
So yeah... it was decent. Certainly not bad. I think I like May more, but there's really no reason why this shouldn't be on screens... Trees get away with too much shit nowadays... all the hippies hugging them and whatnot, people need to get re-afraid of trees... it's been a while since Evil Dead.
|09.26.06||Wilderness||Michael J. Bassett||So this year at FantasticFest they have a whole color-coded category for survival horror in the program book. 6 movies all dealing with woodsy gore and redneck hunter maniacs... I ended up seeing half of them and all 3 were good.|
This one is about a group of troubled youths including a couple bullies who drew a soft kid to suicide going out to a remote island for supposed team-building exercised led by one counselor guy. Yeah, it didn't make a whole lot of sense to me either... but that's ok because it only takes like 15 minutes to get all of that out of the way and start in with the creative woodsy deaths.
The most interesting part of this movie for me was a shift that happened toward the end of the film. It's not so much a twist or anything like that, but just a cool character thing that changes the goal of the film... Unfortunately, I think the very end kind of goes all over the place, killing people off left and right where the first 75% of the picture really revelled in tense moments in between kills.
Still, I liked it. Yet another beartrap gag. Harry pointed out opening night that beartraps would be a recurring theme and indeed they are. But I guess that's also a standard of the survivalist horror genre... It's not like we're seeing beartraps in urban dramas or anything.
|09.27.06||Firefly||Pete Marcy||After some extremely unfulfilling chinese buffet (never again), I decided to check this movie out instead of hang out in the lobby and talk to people. |
I've had a new episode of The Wire on demand since monday but haven't had a free hour to watch it, so my guage for whether a movie is good or bad has now become whether or not i think about how I could be watching that episode of the Wire right now... if I spend my time wishing I was at home instead of the theater, your movie has problems.
This movie has problems.
It's kind of a Donnie Darko rip-off in that some stuff happens then over a perioud of time weird things happen to some people that lead them to eventually all connect at the very end in an explanation of what happened right at the beginning. The problem is that all of the characters aren't defined or developed or fleshed out at all, so you end up watching these people that you don't care about do things that you don't care about to come to a conclusion that you don't care about. Couple that with crappy looking DV photography (which, sorry, I personally don't like. I find that a movie has to work twice as hard to win me over if it's gonna look that way) and a 25-minute short and you get two hours that could've been spent watching that episode of The Wire twice instead. sigh...
|09.27.06||Roman||Angela Bettis||Sitting through Firefly really hurt me for Roman I think. This was also shot on digital and had pretty deliberate pacing and characters that don't immediately scream out for empathy... so I really think my quota for that type of stuff was full for the day after Firefly, leaving me in no mood for this. Still, I felt I had to see it though... Lucky was nice enough to talk to me back at South By when I still had a documentary idea going and I am still a pretty big fan of both May and Angela Bettis' tiny, tiny cute little self so I was definitely curious about this and hoping for the best.|
The idea was that this would be a companion piece to May... not like a sequel or anything like that but more like a cousin, this time with Lucky playing the lead and Angela directing. So while the idea is cool it also sets itself up I think because even though they both did decent jobs, comparing the films is a bit unfair. It's clear that Lucky's a better director than actor and vicey versey with Angela... and that's not just because both May and The Woods looks gorgeous on lush film and this one is all on an XL-1 with available light. Again though, I think that's unfair because May and Roman are, in some respects, completely different kinds of movies.
Still, I have to say I didn't really like this. Really the only kick I got out of it was seeing Kristen Bell play not one but two quirky hot chicks attracted to introverts... that does my heart some good. I may very well have to rent Veronica Mars now, although I have a feeling she's much more sexually assertive in this.
Oh, also... Crab Man from My Name is Earl shows up briefly as a police detective. He looks about as far from a real police detective as I can think of... so that was funny.
I sort of got the general feel that this was a movie all these guys would work on while they were otherwise unemployed... so if they didn't have anything going on for any given weekend, they'd shoot some stuff for Roman and eventually it got done... That's not necessarily a bad thing... it really comes through that it's a group of friends working on this project and I think it's cool how they all stick together and help each other out with their different projects and stuff... but it does have some home movie feel as well.
Oh well, Maybe it was just me, and I hate to say this because I like Lucky and Angela is cute and can fit in my pocket, but this one didn't do much for me.
|09.27.06||Pan's Labyrinth||Guillermo del Toro||This was the second AICN Special Screening listed in the schedule. It was pretty much the worst-kept secret of the fest... everyone seemed to know the first day that it would be this movie, but that doesn't mean any less of us wanted to see it.|
So there's a whole story about why it had to be unlisted and why Guillermo, traditionally a big fan of Austin and big friend to Harry, couldn't be there in person (long story short: he's commited to premiere at the new york film festival closing night), but Harry did have a typed-out speech of Guillermo's that... for whatever reason... harry decided to read aloud in his Mexican Guillermo accent.
Now... I'm not talking bad about Harry because he's the reason I got to see both this and Apocalypto and several other good films here at the fest... but I would think that if you were planning on reading someone else's writen speech out loud to 200 people, you might want to glance over it once or twice before picking up the mic. About half-way through this little paragraph, Harry stops and says "this is a tough word... I don't know this word..." then a few seconds later continues on with "para-diggum" and it's suddenly like Ted Danson just walked onstage in Blackface or Dan Quayle had written "potatoe" on a chalkboard. Everyone looks at each other with wide eyes then maybe half the theater yells out "para-DIME!" and Harry tries to cover it with a lame joke about him being mexican and that's why he mispronounced it.
So paradiggum is now my new favorite word. It's replaced Crispin Glover saying "I am not a retard" in his hilariously bad southern accent as my new favorite thing to say in awkward silences. Can't believe it. paradiggum.
anyway, the movie.
Again, this one was much more realistic that I thought it would be. There are certainly fantasy elements present but it's like 80/20 between real drama with the spanishoccupation and rebels fighting it out and a kind of fantastical series of challenges for the main girl to go on. My immediate reaction was that it was VERY similar to The Devil's Backbone, if you replaced the ghost kid with a walking goat dude.
There is some pretty cool violence, mostly in small touches that make it much more effective, and the reality of the film stands strongly on its own... it just took me a bit off guard with not being more surreal or fantasiac. Unlike The Fountain, I think my expectations made me just a tad disappointed with this, although I still liked it.
So only one more day! Only three more FantasticFest films! Only one more that I haven't seen! it's all happening! First though, I went downtown for a nice little Weird Wednesday diversion.
|09.28.06||The Fantastic Planet||Rene Laloux||Ahh last day... actually a pretty laid back day due to fatigue and a lack of midnight movie... my day started out quiet enough with a screening of Fantastic Planet introduced by Darren Aronofsky. Harry took the opportunity to call Kier-La a "programming elf" which is wrong on so many levels... but otherwise it was interesting to hear Aronofsky talk about why he liked this movie (it's trippy and has a homegrown feel to it). He also said that one of the projects he's working on now might end up animated in a very very similar fashion, and he's never seen it projected so this will be a treat.|
Myself, I was interested in hearing the original score which Wiley says is pretty great. As a surprise to pretty much everybody (since it wasn't in the book or mentioned by Harry at all), one of Rene Laloux's shorts preceded the film... which was actually pretty sweet. It was also animated, and stold the story of a farmer who uses his tears to make his crops grow big (by devising several methods including holding onions up to his eyes or wearing a backpack which regularly hit him on the head and kicked him in the ass). Trouble comes when snails eat his crops and grow into huge town-destructing gigantor monster snails that create some general rampage-esque chaos before forming together to die in weird formations. Amidst the devastation, the farmer decides to grow carrots, again watering them with his tears. The short ends with several huge rabbits looming over the horizon. Pretty cool short.
Seeing the movie again... this was the first time fatigue reared its head for me. A couple times previously I had trying to will myself to fall asleep but this is the first time in the fest that it crept in against my wishes. So I kind of rested my eyes for a few seconds here and there, which I didn't mind too much because the film is really far out and dreamy anyway... I will say that the score is awesome and much cooler than the Chicago tunes I heard last time, but I must say I got tired with all the dialogue. I don't remember it at all but I guess last time I just read the subtitles while the band played... I wish the original score went from begin to finish and there was no dialogue... hearing french people talk made the movie seem that much more like just a normal movie... the imagery is so great and the story is so simple (well, sort of) that I think it's cooler to treat it like a psychadelic fairy tale and not bother to make it accessible at all.
Anyway, I had a good time with it, even in my dreamy haze. And although Aronofsky's first pick for a movie to show was Aguirre The Wrath of God (which Harry said they couldn't get a print in good enough condition to play (which is bullshit because the Alamo showed it in like January)), this still made a pretty good introduction to The Fountain.
|09.28.06||The Fountain||Darren Aronofsky||Second viewing, this time with a packed house.|
I liked it just as much, if not more this time around. The second viewing exposes just how intentional and designed every aspect of the film is. The constant use of gold throughout the lighting and costume and theme even, the parallels between time periods, motifs and all that filmy crap... it's all planned out to say something. It's not exactly clear what that something is... I mean sure something's have specific intentions but big questions of the film largely remain interpretive. There are several different ways you can think about this movie and I think all of them are possible.
I'm actually reminded of the book Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins a lot with this... somewhat less insane but there's still a similar quality that I think they share.
And Rachel Weisz's character's name is Izzi Creo. I'm sure that means something.
It's cool though. Nobody clapped through half of the end credits... all of us just sitting there watching an abstract effect on the screen. I think it's a really powerful film. Aronofsky answered about a half hour's worth of questions, ranging from pretty dumb to pretty good. Composer Clint Mansell was also in attendance and got a few opportunities to talk about his working relationship with Aronofsky, working with Khronos and Mogwai, and working in general. They let loose that a lot of the third act's score to Requiem for a Dream is actually made up of Mozart chord samples all chopped together. Aronofsky also made a cool point by saying he approached Hugh's character as a progression from darkness to light, almost like a vampire. There's one shot in particular toward the beginning of the movie where this is really apparent. (incidentally, that shot is like a reverse image of my dream journal... Aronofsky that hack... stealing my design!). he also called the movie a few things which I liked. Metaphysical chick flick, Spychadelic fairy tale, and a love poem to death. pretty good.
He also elaborated a bit on what the movie was back when Brad Pitt was attached. Apparently they had constructed this huge Mayan pyramid and had 150 Mayan extras hired and had poured 18 million into the movie before the plug got pulled and the project died. So I have to believe that both the Mayan and the future stuff would've been much expanded in that version, but you know what... It still works at a 30 million dollar movie quite well. I forget who he credited, but he said one of his colleagues said he turned the movie into a poem when he read the updated script. That makes sense to me, the finished film is quite poetic.
And then someone asked if he was aware that he had a few scenes which repeated in his film. Right, those just slipped in there.
Afterward, a few people separately told me that while they were watching it they were really blown away but afterward they couldn't really tell me what they liked about it. That's actually kind of understandable. I think especially the last ten minutes of the film are incredibly gripping and also pretty abstract... The picture coupled with the music create something vivid and powerful to the extent that I really haven't seen in a film in a long time... it's something you hate blinking because you have to miss a few frames... you just can't take your eyes off of it. but after it's over you're also not quite sure what the hell just happened or what it all means. Perhaps a little 2001-esque after all.
So yeah, I still really liked it. Everything about it is great and Aronofsky has now moved beyond the visual tricks and gimmicks that established him into a realm of mature filmmaking. I just hope it doesn't take him 6 years to do the next one.
|09.28.06||Isolation||Billy O'Brien||So after that... well there was one more movie slot for the festival and then it was either gonna be staying for Terror Thursday or going to the festival afterparty. First though, I ducked into Isolation because I'd heard the short was good and the movie was good and I'll be able to see Edmund tomorrow.|
Isolation is a movie about killer mutant cows. Yeah, you read that right. Due to genetic meddling, these little exoskeletal fetal cows start chewing through the herd and any people who happen to get in the way. Call it The Thing on a farm, Alien for cows, or whatever... It sounds ridiculous but it was actually a pretty good movie. This was actually the movie which made me squirm in my seat the most. Mostly because I don't like farms and how filthy they are... the beginning scene has a vet shoving her arm up a cow to check on the fetus and something in there bites it. Later on a guy comes as close to literally being up shit creek without a paddle as you can come, and has to wade through neck-high slurry inhabited with unseen mutant cow fuckers... gah. Plus there's lots of steam coming off things like guts and blood that make the whole setting seem all the more authentic and grimy. It does get a bit unclear toward the end but for the most part the story flows nicely and the movie looks pretty slick (meaning competant, not glossy).
Plus there's a scene with one of those slaughterhouse hydraulic spike guns where they try to put down the evil misshapen calf that they've just had to hand-winch out of the mother... man squirmy...
I think another good aspect of the film is that it has a very limited cast... so you can't really stack up the body count too fast because there aren't that many codies to count... so you end up having to spend time with these people and, thanks to the writing and acting, you actually get to like them. Plus, for some unheard-of Irish movie, it looks like a real movie and has someone I recognize (the guy who played Ian Curtis in 24 Hour Party People).
so yeah, it was a good time. I liked it for sure.
so Terror Thursday had a last-minute schedule change (Vampire's Kiss instead of Last Rites) so I decided to hit up the party and hear who won the awards. It was held down the street at this "saloon" that was converted from a gas station... kind of odd. I usually don't go for these festival parties because I always end up talking to people I talk to all the time... but whatever. It was pretty much the same with this one... I sat around talking with friends until they announced the winners (they had like 38 awards that don't mean anything. Why does a second-year film festival need an award for best supporting female performance in a horror film?)... the winners were pretty much all political... whatever.
So right after that we all kind of took a powder from the party and ate at IHOP, returning just in time for the bar to close and a pretty sloshy Tim League to yell out "afterparty at my house!" A few minutes later, I was getting a glimpse inside Tim's abode. It's pretty awesome, fitting his personality to a T. He had a black velvet painting of Farah Fawcett, a card catalog in his upstairs hallway, and a gigantic photograph of meat (taken from a grocery store) above his fireplace. There on the table was Kier-La's horror trivia game!!! I geeked out a bit.
So we all sat down to play... The crowd broke into teams made up of the visiting filmmakers, austin regulars, and various festivalgoers. The Frostbite producer was on one team, the Severance screenwriter on another... my team was Jarrette, Jeff, Cargill, Tim Leage and myself. We got thrashed. It was pitiful. I will probably blame it on bad luck (i don't think we got one easy question the whole time, and even drew what Kier-La called the "hardest question in the entire game") but for the sake of full disclosure, we also sucked. We had a Street Trash question... we've all seen Street Trash and Tim had even been at the festival screening where this tidbit had apparently come up, but none of us knew the answer. So we lost pretty hardcore... it was humbling because a couple of guys around the table were actually pretty good at it (sure it helps if you write a book on Italian horror movies)... and we had a good time trading brit vs. american insults back and forth (particularly harsh on the Severance guy, forever tormented for getting a Shaun of the Dead question wrong in an earlier game). Tim threatned to ban us forever if we didn't roll good numbers, we all looked at each other with blank stares every time a question came up... it was fun. I actually did know maybe 4 or 5 (easy) questions that other teams got... but for the most part I felt like a 6 year old let in to play no limit texas hold-em. Basically I spent a lot of time looking around with glossy unfocused eyes.
So THIS felt like the festival closing night party to me... really fun time. And now it's over.
So... I guess maybe a little recap is in order. My own meaningless awards.
# of things seen: 29
# of things actively liked: 18
# of things I wanted to see but had to miss due to scheduling: 13
Biggest surprise (positive): The Host
Biggest surprise (negative): Renaissance
Biggest surprise (mediocre): The Woods
Common themes: Bear traps, important trees, mayans
Biggest Regret: Missing Funky Forest for Shock Waves
Biggest semi-regret: missing Simon Says for a VJ competition
Biggest non-regret: missing A Quiet Love for the acquisitions panel
best day of films: Monday
Worst day of films: Friday
Top 5 favorites:
1/2. The Host / The Fountain (tie)
3/4. Severance / Hatchet (tie)
5. Beach Party and the threshold of hell