|FantasticFest 2007 (09.20.07 - 09.27.07, 31 movies)|
|09.20.07||Diary of the Dead||George A. Romero||Fantastic Fest 2007.|
There are a few immediate differences this year with the opening night that I liked. Firstly, the opening night film was in the 7 spot rather than the 9, so there's no extraneous first film to see before the "big" event. Secondly, the opening party was held in the parking lot behind the theater before the first movie, so you come early to pick up your badge and crap then it gives you an opportunity to hang out for a bit and meet up with old friends and not have to miss a movie to do so. Plus in typical Alamo fashion, there were morbid attractions like a challenge of eating chips sprayed with pure capsaicin extract or watching Zack take a cannon filled with blood and guts directly to the groin or seeing Tim League beat the everloving shit out of a pinata stuffed with raw meat and guts. Yet while all this went on, waiters carried around trays of fancy schmancy hors d'oeuvres.
Every year I come to this thing I feel more entrenched as a local filmgoer. It's strange and uncommon for me to be amongst a large group of people and know more than three of them. Movie geeks unite!
Anyway, George Romero officially gets extra points because when I showed up more than two hours before his film was scheduled to start, he was already out in the crowd hanging out and talking to his fans. Plus he said "fuck" during the Q&A but more on that later. Actually let's talk about it now. After the movie, he gave a really great Q&A that included his definitive... definition of the rules dealing with zombies. Paraphrasing, he said "It has nothing to do with infections or viruses or anything like that, if you get bit that just speeds along the process of dying and anyone who dies comes back because God or whoever the fuck's up there won't let them stay dead!" He was loose and open and gracious and very appreciative of the enormous amounts of fanboy love vibes being sent his way and it was awesome.
So when the lights went down, this year's Fantastic Fest impressed me once again. Thanks to the young filmmakers challenge, they actually had real FF bumpers this year instead of stealing from the various shorts, and more than that, they're good! and funny! Then they showed trailers for upcoming festival films (thus sealing Flight of the Living Dead's absence on my schedule for good) (and I saw different trailers with each film of the night), a new bit where veteran waiter Devin explains to the new folks how ordering food works, a new menu cover with breakfast specials, red bull, and illustrated guide to ordering (i guess someone tried walking into the kitchen the other day because he didn't know how it works), and George Romero's no-talk spot from when he was here last (playing to many many cheers). Then the movie started.
So... I don't want to be a negative nelly, but I'd heard beforehand from multiple people that Diary of the Dead was supposed to suck, then I heard from multiple other people who'd seen it that it did suck, so my expectations were on the floor. With that in mind, I walked out of the theater thinking it wasn't as bad as everyone said.
Diary of the Dead is sort of a "reboot" (ugh, if i was less tired I wouldn't use that term I swear) for Romero, taking the timeline back to the day the dead stopped dying. It's told as if we're watching a film student's documentary edited together by his girlfriend. Basically it's a group of friends who start off filming a movie when the news reports start coming in and try to make it to the girlfriend's parents house then to other forms of safety while all hell breaks loose.
Now, when I say it wasn't as bad as everyone said, that doesn't mean there aren't a lot of things I had a problem with. Like main characters and the structure of the whole film - kind of major problems to have with a movie - but when I wasn't cringing (the canadian girl from "San Antone... that's in Texas!" and the british drunk professor who is inexplicably... inexplicable are the two main perps), there was some stuff to like. Most of the actual zombie stuff was good, some of the gags were great (although it sucks that so many effects are digital nowadays), and although I thought the message was a bit on the nose, I respect that the message was there. I also can't decide if I liked the whole beginning conversation where Romero uses his film school characters to air his grievances over the genre he defined ("They can't run, they're dead! If they ran they're ankles would snap!") or if I found the self-awareness too much to bear.
I think the strongest aspect of the film (and Romero has always been really really great with this) was the sound montage of background news reports, radio broadcasts, and whatnot. I remember the ending of Martin how he zoomed out with the radio chatter clouding in and how effective that was... and in this film it establishes a lot of your basic zombies-are-here awesomeness that I can never get enough of. You know, news guys looking at the camera saying the dead are walking, scientists warning that you have to shoot them in the head, pundits arguing about the apocalypse... I don't know why but that stuff NEVER gets old for me. And this time around (as uncovered during the Q&A) Romero got a bunch of his "old buddies" to come in and supply voice work for that stuff. Buddies like Guillermo Del Toro, Simon Pegg, Stephen King, Wes Craven, Quentin Tarantino, and more. They're all mixed so well you may not recognize all of them, but it's cool when you do.
So... yeah, not as bad as everyone says. Give it a chance!
|09.20.07||Timecrimes||Nacho Vigalondo||One day while a guy sits in his backyard looking into the woods with his binoculars, he sees an unbelievably gorgeous woman taking off her shirt. Little does he realize that this will set off a chain of events leading to him travelling back in time three times. It's a smart, tight, entertaining puzzlework of the time travel concept that explores both the inevitability of time and how fragile it is. I really liked this film a lot.|
During the Q&A, someone asked the director (very funny but apparently he has that unbelievably hot topless girl as a girlfriend so I hate him) whether the film was about this guy being unable to change events in time or trying hard to keep the house of cards from falling. The director answered that the guy is unable to change anything even though he tries... which is interesting because I thought the movie was about the exact opposite. Because through the course of the movie, this guy gets the crap beaten out of him trying to make everything work out alright and ultimately has to do a pretty bad thing (hence the title) but I thought it was because he wanted to keep existing and not blow up time, not that it was because he was forced by the unseen hand of fate. Either way, (and I'm sure the director's wrong and I'm right by the way), it's a very well-executed idea that I can easily see becoming a cult favorite due to the new dimensions that repeat viewings would bring to it. Like I said, I really liked it a lot.
|09.20.07||The Ferryman||Chris Graham||A group of couples head off on a fishing trip onboard a yacht from New Zealand to Fiji. All's good until they catch a shark and find a human hand in its belly. Along the lines of The Hidden, Fallen, and Carpenter's The Thing, this movie is about a malevolent spirit that can switch bodies with the use of a special dagger. The twist is that the spirit is running from Death (or the ferryman, mythologically speaking). John Rhys Davies plays the initial host that a group of yachters pick up.|
This movie was much better than I thought it would be. Every aspect was just better. The depth of character, the abundance of twisted humor throughout, and the places they went that I didn't really expect them to go all brought this movie up in my eyes. I wouldn't say it's a FUN movie, but I definitely had fun watching it (if that makes sense).
For instance, at one point, the spirit has just switched into the body of a beautiful yet shallow and bitchy girl, leaving her spirit in the bruised bloodied and gutshot body of the guy before. She then proceeds to masturbate in front of "herself" while the guy whines in disgust and yells "you can't make me cry!" over and over again. I really didn't expect to see that when I sat down an hour ago!
The big difference may be that I like all the characters. They're fun before they're possessed then most of them get to be even more fun when they get possessed. This movie wouldn't be nearly as good if the evil spirit wasn't such a bastard. Thankfully for the audience, he is. Not so much for the poor dog who undergoes some (hopefully) fake movie-violence. And never mind that shark.
|09.21.07||The Rug Cop||Minoru Kawasaki||Day Two. Word from last night's midnight screenings is that this movie End of the Line is worth watching so I'm switching my schedule up to make room. That means I watch this now.|
This is a comedy about a cop who uses his toupee to solve crimes. Mostly he throws it at people and it knocks them over or whatever then flies back on his head. He's surrounded by other kooky cops with silly tricks like a fat guy who can sweat all over people or a short guy who can run fast because there's less wind resistance. The only other cop with useful powers however is "Big Willie" who pops up with a light saber-like rod whenever he's turned on.
It's a really childish comedy filled with similar jokes following a simple plot. Plus it gave off a real sitcom vibe to me... like I was watching a bizarro world episode of Three's Company or something. Everyone else seemed to like it more than I did. Oh well.
|09.21.07||Never Belongs to Me||Gee-woong Nam||Next up was perhaps the most questionable slot in the festival. I'd heard so much about the short preceding this film that I couldn't not see it. I mean serious stuff like Karrie League not being able to finish watching it and Rodney proclaiming it the grossest thing he's seen in years and Lars calling it "pretty rough." Never mind that the movie following it is about a guy with a penis gun and starts off with a dog and a lion mating with a human woman.|
Gary's Touch. It's gross but not unbearably so. Maybe that means I'm a sicko or just jaded to infinity. It's not violent or animal-cruel or eating-puke type gross, more like sexual, bodily-fluid gross. And it's really only one scene and it's also pretty damn funny so... I was a bit let down although I can see where the hubbubb comes from. To me it was worth watching.
Never Belongs To Me however, quickly became an exercise in trying to fall asleep while weird loud Japanese things happen in front of me. There were about 7 minutes of enjoyment (when the guy finally gets his penis gun and goes through training then gets revenge on the bad guys) but... instead of ending when it was supposed to, it went on. For another 45 minutes. I was kind of following it up to that point but from then on nothing made sense to me and I was basically waiting for it to end.
Admittedly, I am not a super huge fan of Japanese horror or Japanese wackiness. I think both are really arbitrary and random and work fine as an Alamo pre-show but aren't necessarily something I'd pay to see. So there's my bias right there, but still. ugh.
|09.21.07||Mirageman||Ernesto Díaz Espinoza||I had originally planned to see the Mobius doc next but... I was really more in the mood for something with action that would keep me awake so I switched at the last minute and found a seat for this instead.|
So... this dude Marko Zaror is a martial arts guy and made a movie in Chile called Kiltro (showing later in the fest). According to the Twitch guy who introduced the film, that was South America's first martial arts movie. The same team behind that movie made another movie and this is it.
Basically, it's the story of what if Marko wanted to become a vigilante superhero. He doesn't have any superpowers but he can beat the everloving shit out of you if he wants to and, you know, that's been known to deter some crime from time to time.
So the movie's shot very verite style, very fast and loose, with marko running around the streets in his little home-made costume fighting crime. There's lots of humor as he tries things like changing into his costume when he sees wrong being done or public backlash because he looks lame and people take him for a crazy person or a joke, but the music in the movie give his serious motives an action movie mentality that resulted in the crowd cheering A LOT whenever Marko did an awesome kick or won a fight or whatever. And this is the Bruce lee kind of fighting where there's no wires or digital effects, just people getting punched and kicked and thrown around.
I liked the movie and laughed and felt entertained throughout, but also felt a sense that everyone around me was liking it a bit more than I was. It's weird... I liked it for sure but it felt like it was missing an ingredient to make it a real movie. I'm not sure that makes sense to anyone (I'd think festival regulars might get me before casual viewers do), but it's like it needed salt or something. I actually think this is common in festivals and one of the major reasons why movies like Hatchet and Behind the Mask lose their luster when seen as a "normal" movie. In the context of all these micro-budget submissions and imported indies, festival-goers glom on to any and every enjoyable moment in each film, deeming it good or even MUST-SEE if there are enough of them, yet a lot of these movies are incredibly mediocre stacked against a good studio movie. It's worth it because every once in a while you find real gold that's way better than any studio movie could be, but along the way there's a good deal of pyrite as well.
Not to say this movie is pyrite. Marko, please don't kick me in the face.
|09.21.07||Weirdsville||Allan Moyle||Being a big Pump Up the Volume fan, I knew I wanted to see this so I didn't read too much about it. It ended up being kind of like a... hmm. I definite know there are movies very similar to this but none of them are coming to mind. You know... movies where a couple of deadbeats are driving around town trying to do something and several groups of interesting and/or funny people interfere along with several coincidences that make the whole thing wrap into itself? It's one of those movies.|
It's funny, kind of odd, pretty original. I liked it a lot.
Also of note was the short that played before it: The Ecstasy Note. I've written about it before but was glad to hear it get some response and didn't mind sitting through it a second time, waiting for the big comic beats. I just wish it was ten minutes shorter and that much tighter, but I still like how big the idea goes (this was the one about a guy who sticks a fork in his hand and bangs it with a knife to make all those who can hear it writhe in undescribable pleasure). I love it when the doctor looks at the x-ray and says "well, looks like you've got a fork in your hand." gee, thanks.
|09.21.07||Wrong Turn 2||Joe Lynch||The direct-to-dvd sequel to the blockbuster hit that no one saw but a lot of people bought the DVD. I wasn't a huge fan of the original so literally the only reason why I was in the theater was the one shot they'd been showing during trailers for the festival: a guy brings down an axe and the camera's positioned on the ground in between a woman's legs and you see a bucket full of intestines fall and her legs pivot and fall apart rather than together. It's a really great gag so I figured even if the rest of the movie sucked ass, I owed it to that gag to check this out.|
And again, maybe I have the festival goggles on that makes anything decent seem good and anything mediocre seem decent but... I liked this movie! I mean, it was what it was but for what it was it sure was! I'd even say I liked it more than the first, which I only remember as being too slow and not enough deaths.
The premise is that a group of people are filming a survivor-type reality show pilot out in the woods but they happened to take the proverbial wrong turn and wind up redneck inbred mountain man-bait. The kicker (and a large reason why I liked the movie) is that the host is none other than Henry Rollins playing an ex-military survivalist dude. This is basically what my brain has been waiting for since high school but I'd never thought to ask. Henry Rollins going all Commando on me and taking people out explosive-arrow Rambo style. Add that to intentially unrated gore, a handful of creative gags and lots and lots of blood and you get a movie I enjoy.
I dont really care so much about the Wrong Turn mythology or the inbred character names or whatever because but this movie really delivered on some quality splatter. I was pleasantly surprised.
So let's hope tomorrow keeps up the pleasant surprise-ratio.
|09.22.07||Southland Tales||Richard Kelly||I started today off by sleeping in. I think my Asian wackiness quota filled up yesterday with just two movies so I wasn't in the mood for the Japanese wacky comedy I had scheduled for the first show (turns out I should've seen The Cold Hour I guess, but oh well). So my first screening was actually a collection of shorts made by this dude named Phil Chambliss. He's been making his own movies completely independantly down in Southern Arkansas for decades now and the festival programmers decided to make a program of them and show four that give a good example of the range and variety of films this guy makes. They're... pretty rough but contain a raw authenticity that city folks making fun of country folks can't duplicate. The films themselves are really trippy and existential. I'm not really sure if he designed them that way or they just came out that way due to rudimentary production and post tools (he literally edits with the camera, clicking pause and record while cueing with a VCR to create the final cut). Technically speaking, they're very amateurish and all the people in them aren't really professional actors, but all of these factors come together to create something I got a kick out of (oddly enough). Definitely not for everyone though. A few people found that out real quick and scuttled away a few minutes into the first film (a Bergmanesque conversation between two ex-con would-be hunters and a devil's helper offering them hunting permits for twenty years of servitude). Described as folk-art filmmaking, it was very odd and interesting.|
Next up was the first super duper secret we're-not-telling-you-what-it-is screening of the fest. I heard people started lining up four and a half hours early for it. I'm glad they decided to show Southland Tales today because it's really the only film I was sure they'd screen and now the rest of them will just be rumor and hearsay for me.
Apparently we are the first audience to see the "completed" cut of the film. Richard Kelly was there to introduce it and Q&A afterward. It's like two and a half hours long. How was it you ask?
Well... I thought it was a mess. There were a few moments of clarity where I kind of enjoyed myself but for the most part it was a real big mess. An incoherent, disconnected, needlessly obtuse yet mind-blaringly on the nose (at the same time!), indulgent mess. I hate to say that because Richard Kelly seems like a nice guy and I (like everyone else) really liked Donnie Darko (well, the theatrical cut at least) but the reason why Donnie Darko was good was because it actually worked. It was like a souffle that rose while Southland Tales is the failed lump of eggs and flour that didn't come together.
There are a few guidelines that came from this experience that might help me in the future though:
-if you need a series of graphic novels to explain your movie, you might be in trouble.
-if your big important mantra line for the whole movie involves a character calling himself a pimp, you might be in trouble.
-if you have Justin Timberlake walking around an arcade lip syncing to a Killer song, you might be in trouble.
Here are the good things I have to say about it: It certainly is an ambitious movie, and it has a lot of faces in the cast that I like. Amy Poehler, Wood Harris, John Larroquette, Wallace Shawn, Curtis Armstrong, Jon Lovitz... I love that they're all in a movie together. I don't quite get how casting all of them makes your movie an Andy Warhol pop art masterpiece, but whatever.
And I totally don't get how Kevin Smith can think a movie like Magnolia is criminally indulgent then BE IN this movie. Don't get that one at all.
So whatever. Hopefully it'll come out, flop, hit DVD, get the Donnie Darko uberfan cult support and Kelly will be able to move on and make another (smaller) film that might be really good. I sure hope so.
And that's about as much thought as I'm giving Southland Tales. Next.
|09.22.07||Sex and Death 101||Daniel Waters||Daniel Waters (Heathers) writes and directs this movie about a guy (Simon Baker) who gets an email one day that lists every person he's ever had sex with and will have sex with in his entire life. It turns out to be a glitch from some ubercomputer that Patton Oswalt and the guy who plays Bunny in The Wire work on, so Baker starts using the list to his advantage. Meanwhile, Winona Ryder keeps putting guys in comas after seducing them, starting a whole feminist movement in the process. Surprise Surprise, Baker finds out that Ryder is the last name on his list so he starts fearing for his life and tries to stop having sex.|
I thought this was very funny in varying tones from light-hearted romantic comedy to paint-it-black dark comedy to twisted to borderline illegal humor and back to heart-warming stuff. It makes for a very hard-to-market film I'm sure but it also feels similar to Heathers in that way. I laughed a lot and was thoroughly entertained. It also felt like a real movie and not just something that'd work in a festival atmosphere. I hate to spoil any of the specific jokes but one HAS to be noted for posterity (and my memory). There's a montage where Baker has sex with a lot of women and Waters conveys that by subtitled translations of different japanese character tattoos on lower backs. It's an immediate classic joke.
Waters, Simon Baker, Patton Oswalt, and one of the (many) hot women from the film were in attendance and got up afterward. Patton was hilarious as always (i bet people would even pay to hear him talk WITHOUT watching a movie beforehand!) but surprise surprise, one of the biggest laughs came from Henri when he empathized with Simon Baker about how hard it had to be for him to act like a woman's not sexually attracted to him. Baker had a real good sense of humor though and stuck with it, actually impressing me quite a bit with his wit. All around it was a pretty great Q&A, alternatively hilarious and interesting.
|09.22.07||Postal||Uwe Boll||man! for a genre film festival I sure have seen a lot of comedies today. It's ok though, the humor is always a welcome addition to the blood and guts. They're so close in so many ways anyway that I'm glad this year has these lighter moments. My memories of last year were pretty relentless. Or maybe I'm just picking the pansy movies this year, who knows.|
Anyway, for midnight they showed Postal with Uwe Boll and star Zack Ward in attendance. Yes, he's the guy who was Scut Farkus in A Christmas Story.
As for the actual movie, eh. It got some laughs from the audience but never more than a smirk or occasional chuckle from me. It wasn't bad in the way I thought it'd be bad (Uwe being so self-aware now that it comes off sad), but it wasn't.... well, good. It seemed like a checklist of things generally considered in bad taste nowadays. I felt sorry for Michael Pare when he popped up here, and also sad when I saw Dave Foley's penis. That's about all I have to say about the movie.
The Q&A was great though. I never in a million years would've thought that Uwe Boll would be the straight man, but he totally was compared to Zack Ward. That dude... well, I'm sure the video will be on the Internet very soon (if not already). But seriously, he had some... conviction. And beers. Lots of beers. I think he called us all queefs, challenged us all to fight in the lobby, suck his cock, and fuck off. Multiple times. I actually think I'm too tired to adequately explain this Q&A. Words fail me. I still can't believe Uwe came off as the sane one. OK, it was like this. It was like being at a bar at 1:45AM and somehow being cornered by the guy who's been drinking since noon except instead of talking about conspiracies or his cheating wife or whatever, he talks about political satire movies and Uwe Boll's balls. It starts off funny but then goes on and on to the point where you're looking around for a way to escape. Still though, memorable to say the least.
|09.23.07||Persepolis||Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi||I opted out of Death Note in order to get a decent spot in the line for today's secret screening. If I was programming this festival, I'd put the biggest pride movie I could into this slot because it's still the weekend so everybody's still here and strong word of mouth today would drive the whole week... So I'm afraid I let my imagination run wild a bit and sat down hoping for a movie that I'd been looking forward to. Then Dentler got up and introduced this.|
Persepolis is the animated tale of a woman growing up in 80s Iran with the revolution and whatnot, kind of an autobiography of her trials, tribulations, and travels. I guess it was based on a graphic novel (and co-directed by the main character). The animation was mostly in black and white and had a unique style probably taken from the book.
I can't really say it's a bad movie. I can say that it's not my kind of movie and if I had known about it ahead of time I would've seen something else. I think a couple people (non-VIP badgeholders waiting in line for 3 hours expecting a Mel Gibson-level special event) were a little miffed. Plus the fact that Dentler mentioned it only being a secret screening here because they wanted the official US push to begin in a few weeks with NYFF made it seem all the less special.
I'm not sure if I'm glad I even saw it. It really did nothing for me at all. Again, I can't say it's bad - It didn't look or sound bad - but it was so outside the realm of my interest that nothing really mattered.
Oh well, next.
|09.23.07||Son of Rambow||Garth Jennings||Next up was the other movie I was looking forward to seeing since Jarrette and Eric both loved it at Sundance. It's about a couple of British kids who become friends while making their own sequel to First Blood. It's funny and filled with interesting kids... there's a French foreign exchange student milked for a lot of laughs, and ends up with a finale so heart-warming mine needed to turn on a fan.|
I really liked it. The two main kids were amazing and I was stunned to hear that they found them both in the school system and neither were "actors" before this. There was also good music throughout (although, as a couple people discussed afterward, not altogether correct to period). I feel like I should have more to say but I'm tired and a lot of the details have left me. I really liked it though.
Oh, I don't know if this is worth mentioning or not since I can't remember how he credited himself on Hitchhiker's but here he went back to his Hammer and Tongs moniker. Is that going back to his roots or something? Who knows.
|09.23.07||Crazy Thunder Road||Sogo Ishii||An ultra-rare screening (Apparently it's played in LA once and that's it for the country ever) of this Japanese punk biker movie, the student film from Sogo Ishii. I think it might have something to do with one gang fighting with another, but there's a facist para-military gay guy that keeps popping up and about halfway through the picture the plot all but disappears until all of a sudden one of the guys has sharpened hooks for a hand and wants to kill everybody in his town with the help of an arms dealer and a pre-pubescent drug pusher.|
So I never really knew quite what was going on, but I didn't let that stop me from enjoying the movie. There's a real energy to the camerawork that makes perfect sense as a student film. Ishii's trying all kinds of stuff and really playing around and the movie has an energy that reminded me a bit of the French New Wave films, Shoot the Piano Player in particular due to its added similarlity of taking a distinctly American genre and churning it through the inevitable translation to another. I felt like the notion of making a "biker" film filtered down to each individual shot. There were so many that just showed a large group of guys hanging out and being bikerly, even some insert shots of guys just sitting there looking tough or like they don't care. Then the costumes and hair and all the usual stuff on top of course and the requisite "zone out" segment of the film where logic and plot take a coffee break and the actors are left to play around.
And then at the end, it's like I'm watching Mad Max meets The Exterminator as the dude guns down everybody on screen wearing his cool black outfit with the shoulder pads and opaque black goggles and helmet. excitemet!
The music was also great. Punky bikery songs that I've never heard of because they're Japanese but no less rowdy and bassliney. Really good stuff. Glad I got to see this one.
|09.23.07||Big Man Japan||Hitoshi Matsumoto||The late-addition screening that Tim had this to say about it: The holy grail of film bookings. if you miss this, you miss the festival.|
It's about a guy whose job it is to get blown up to super size in order to fight the various giant monsters that occasionally plague the area. It's in mockumentary style following him around during his everyday life in between working. The mockumentary part is very dry because he's a really quiet guy but when he gets big, the surprisingly-decent-yet-still-not-seamless CGI battles between him and the various "baddies" are awesome.
I'm gonna go ahead and spoil the ending because I doubt this movie will ever be available in the US in any sort of official capacity and the ending is the most bizarre part that I ended up liking the most so I have to mention it.
After a whole movie of this really realistic CG, the movie switched to live action guys wearing plastic suits on miniature sets wrestling the bad guy around and beating him in his oversized foam-rubber head with rolled up newspapers and punches and kicks. It's so bizarre I really didn't know what to think. And then the movie ends and there's a scene over the credits where they talk about everything they did wrong during the fight. I'm too tired to explain it entirely but... huh? So strange. I'm actually still not sure if I liked it or didn't. I'm going to sleep on it and see if anything becomes clearer.
|09.24.07||Blood, Boobs & Beast||John Paul Kinhart||Over the hump and I wokle up with a slightly scratchy throat. Shit. Time to start overloading on vitamin C. Why does my immune system break down after four days of festival?|
Anyway, I really wanted to see this doc because I knew Zack really loved it and I liked Alien Factor and always find it interesting to see and hear how completely independant guys did their thing. I didn't know Dohler had passed away last December though. That really sucks. That made the ending really sad. Actually, not just that he died but also that he had more or less moved on from filmmaking, finding no joy in it anymore. I haven't seen his later films but judging from the movie they were pretty drastically different from his 80s stuff though so maybe the times are so different now that it was bound to happen, health problems or no.
Skipping back to the beginning, Don Dohler was a guy who made low-budget horror movies in the 80s kinda sorta known for being "bad" although plenty of people (like Zack) have genuine love for them. He's a cult figure and since he lives and works in Baltimore, he's kind of like the horror equivalent to John Waters.
Longterm readers (man you must have boring jobs or something) may remember me seeing Alien Factor and being impressed by the special effects. One of the things I learned in this doc was that Dohler also published Cinemagic, a magazine devoted to how the special effects work (like CineFX today), as well as working with several big names in the underground comics scene.
Dohler's history is interesting but it's intercut with fly on the wall footage of him making his latest film. That's really sad too, sort of like the toward-the-end montage of Boogie Nights when Jack's walking through the video warehouse and Ricky Jay's shooting the lesbians saying "just keep going, it's videotape" like this is the sad state of the industry today look at what it's become. For some reason, seeing Troma films shot that way are ok but seeing Dohler, with Alien Factor so innocent and packed with child-friendly imagination, now making casting decisions based on who will do nudity... Yeah, this movie is sad before Dohler gets sick.
It's really good though. I really liked it.
I totally forgot to touch on one subject that I really loved about Don and that's his Baltimority! I went to highschool in Frederick, MD (my parents still live roughly five minutes from Burkittsville which is (sigh) where they set the Blair Witch Project) so for shows one either went into big bad DC to the worst neighborhoods where all the cool clubs were invariably located, or every once in a while you went over to Baltimore and Hammerjacks (I'm sure there are more clubs but Frederick highschoolers didn't know about them in my day). So although I've never lived in Baltimore per se, I did live near there; close enough to get some everyday exposure of what I now realize are unique Baltimorean traits. The first is (obviously) the accent. The part in this doc where the friends bust on the "Come Oo-on!" line, asking if people really talked that way. The answer is yes, they do. Dohler's accent isn't nearly as pronounced but he has something I almost like better: It's that deadpan pessimist minor tone to everything he says. Like you hear him talk and you can perfectly imagine a line like this coming out of his mouth: "well it probably won't matter because the world will end in three weeks anyway, just my luck." Like living in Baltimore is so tough that everyone just starts to sound like that. "Had to take the bus cause my car broke down, wasn't but ten degrees out of course." I don't know if this is making any sense on the page, but I loved it. I think his accent went a long way in painting him as the tragic tired figure in the doc.
|09.24.07||Aachi and Sspiak||Jo Beom-jin||Alright. Let me try to explain this movie. It's Korean animated... set in the future or whatever where the only source of energy is human pooh so the government outfits everyone with an anal ring that registers when you crap and they reward you with a super-addictive juicybar. So the Juicybars are so addictive that a whole group called the Diaper Gang forms and... that's the backstory. The actual plot of the movie would probably (and I'm not joking) take me all night to write.|
To me, this movie suffered similar to The District from last year. Visually, it's stunning. But it's so fast and busy and it never slows down that you get overstimulated. I dozed off for a bit of this toward the end but let me tell you, my little dream fragments as I hazed in and out were AWESOME.
I feel kind of bad though because I could tell this wouldn't be something I'd love from the trailers and really only saw it because there was nothing else in the time slot that interested me. I think most of the people that watched it really liked it and, after seeing Dai Nipponjin last night, I completely understand why Tim's so crazy for this. Just too crazy for me (i'm a fogey!)
|09.24.07||End of the line||Maurice Devereaux||People on a subway car are caught off guard when a Christian religious group get are paged with a message letting them know the apocalypse has started and it's time to start "saving" (read: stabbing to death with crucifix daggers) everyone in sight.|
Right off the bat, I have to mention that in the Q&A afterward, someone asked if you could buy those crucifix daggers anywhere. is it scary or funny? you tell me because I'm Not Sure.
So I think maybe this and Timecrimes are getting the biggest positive word-of-mouth of this festival. It's interesting because I think neither of these have distribution because they're such a tough sell. Hopefully enough people will write and/or talk about both these films so they get picked up by someone and can be seen by more people. There are spoilers below so if you don't think you'll ever see this then read on.
I think what a lot of people are responding to are... well, two things. The first is that the ending takes you to a place where there's a distinct possibility that these crazy christians that have spent the whole movie being antagonists were actually right and were saving people from the hellish torment of the demons that were on their way up to Earth. It's a pretty awesome twist on the movie without it being a twist like "ta DA!!!" like Shyamalan twists. But there's also a little subplot dealing with muffins so the ending is deliberately ambiguous as to whether the demons are real or hallucinations. When asked during the Q&A the director answered by saying the clues were there and his goal was to get people talking about it afterward. The second reason why people like it (i think) is that there's a gag with a pregnant girl where she gets stabbed and the baby comes out and high-fives the mother as they both die. It's awesome but apparently offensive to some people (pussies!)
So... I myself liked the film. I don't think it's the best thing ever but it's done very well and pretty effective and man does it take BALLS to make christians the homicidal maniacs in your horror movie. You have to respect that (That's probably all you'll be able to do since I can't see any distributor putting this movie in theaters). It also got major extra points when I learned that the writer/director also completely financed the film. I have no clue what the budget was but it looked good. Like a real movie. Like a Hollywood movie. And the effects were good and not cheap at all. I'm absolutely sure it looked at least twice as expensive as it really was.
Definitely good and I hope it gets seen by others.
|09.24.07||A Colt is My Passport||Takashi Nomura||The first in a three-film retrospective of Nikkatsu Action films of the 60s. This may frustrate some of you and bore others because apparently these films are very hard to find in the US (for instance, as far as everyone in the room knew, tonight was the first time this film had every screened in this country) so... when I talk about how awesome it is you wont be able to easily track it down or catch it when it hits theaters in a few months. Too bad!|
A hitman (chipmunk-cheeked Branded to Kill star Jo Shishido) takes out a rival organization's leader but his boss makes peace with the rival's new leader while he hides out in a fishing town. Soon, as terms of the peace agreement, his own men must take Shishido out unless he can find a way out of the country. As a sign of how rare this print is, the english subtitles had to be typed out and manually advanced using a separate projector hooked up to a laptop. The Alamo fashioned a smaller subtitle screen under their main screen so we could read and not have the subs over the picture. It was an awesome little setup (I wish every subbed film was presented this way but, As Lars noted when David made that exact comment, sometimes we can't choose. heh heh) and I was sort of constantly aware of how small a chance of me ever seeing this movie again was.
You know how I wrote about Crazy Thunder Road last night and how it was like the Japanese translation of "the biker film"? Well this is very similar but it's the Japanese translation of "the hard-boiled crime film." AND "the Italian western film." It's a VERY interesting mix of styles and comes out so potent as to possibly be more hard-boiled that the stuff it takes from. Kind of like using the essential oils of something instead of the actual ingredient.
It's great though. Absolutely great and I loved it. In the intro, author Mark Schilling noted that the film kind of goes off its rails for the last twenty minutes or so and gets super crazy. Well, I'm not sure what he meant by "off the rails" but if he was going for "becomes the best thing ever" then he was pretty dead on. Once Shishido trades his safe escape for his friend's, he tries to figure a strategy for the duel to come. Using intelligence and surveilance, he painstakings make a bomb and devises a plan on how to take out the group of shooters that will come after him. It's pretty much dialogue-free and so filled with awesomeness much like a Melville procedure, Hitchcock suspense or Dassin heist. It's like the film starts off in a wide shot (in a story sense) and through the movie narrows and narrows until its fetishistically close to Shishido, watching his every move.
The Spaghetti Western influences come in through the music certainly but also the direction and staging and shot composition. Lots of tight close-ups, eyes, formal posturing, iconic shots and looks, etc. During the end duel, we see Shishido standing on the horizon and the camera pulls back but instead of being in between a gunman's legs we're in between a BMW's wheels: it's a high-noon face off but it's man vs. car. It's still a great great shoot-out though.
So this is part of an 8-film series playing NYC in a week or two. The only guy I know that lives there is probably too busy/uninterested to make time to see it but if any of you stranger google people reading this live there and this sounds at all decent to you, look it up and see it for yourself. It's really a great film.
So... the midnight spot was clear save "Fantastic Fued with Scott Weinberg." It's a horror trivia game with Scott as the host and Devin as co-host/scorekeeper and teams of 8 battling it out against one another. There was a decent turn-out and, although I'm still not really sure of the rules of this game, it was hilarious seing everyone play it. I believe Lars got genuinely pissed at the looseness of the game and at least two answers were challenged (that's what happens when you play horror trivia with guys like Lars and Zack). I think out of all the questions they asked (and there were a lot) I knew a half dozen and would've gotten one more with 5 minutes to think about it. The teams were sort of neck and neck until the final round when Fango-writer Matt Kiernan got up against John Carpenter (no, not THAT John Carpenter) and had to trade off directors of the Halloween, Friday the 13th, and Nightmare on Elm St. movies. Matt was like a machine with those!!!! I was amazed. Everybody was amazed. It was amaZING. I have no idea how he knows all that crap but... good for him!
Directly after that, people started singing karaoke and drinking free beer. It was fun for a bit (Zack's rendition of Rebel Yell was spot-on and hilarious) but after three horrible songs I saw that it wasn't ending anytime soon and wouldn't help me in my fight against oncoming germs any if I stayed and shouted conversation and drank enough beers to sing so I bailed. And then I wrote. And now I sleep.
|09.25.07||Hell's Fever||Alessandro Perrella||So I'd heard very... interesting things about this movie. Trusted Alamo sources really enjoyed it so I thought I'd make it a full day and catch it.|
Side note: The alamo's breakfast menu... it's neat that it exists and all but one of my favorite items isn't on there and totally should be: you can get a bagel with cream cheese... and you can get a fried egg on your BLT... so why is there no bacon, egg & cheese bagel! Well, this particular day, I asked one of the fine waiters what was up with that and he completely hooked me up, ringing it up as a BLT but subbing the bread for a bagel and replacing the L and T with Egg and Cheese. It came out perfect and hit the spot better than anything ever hit a spot before. I don't know if my awesome waiter guy wasn't supposed to do that or what but if this sounds good to you, try asking for it and who knows, maybe it will get on the menu (as it should be!).
Anyway, the movie. A group of people apparently rob a bank and go up to the snowy mountains to hide out while some dude changes their car somehow (the only thing i picked up was "he's even changing the tires!"). So instead of staying at this mountain mechanic's little house, they trek to some cave where there's a one-person elevator leading down to a "safe room in the old mine" where they can sleep and eat canned food. Only, the first guy goes down and only his hand comes back up.
OK... There's this movie called Mom and Dad Save the World and one of the running jokes is that everyone on the alien planet is incredibly dumb so simple Earthlings (in the form of Teri Garr and Jeffrey Jones) are the smartest people on the planet. One of the best manifestations of this joke is a grenade that they use. The guy says it's incredibly dangerous and should be handled with upmost care. Anyone that picks it up gets completely obliterated. Jones asks why anyone in their right mind would pick this thing up? and you see the grenade and "Pick Me Up"s written on it. So of course, when the bad guys get there they carefully approach the grenade then the first guy picks it up and blammo! he disintegrates. The second guy slowly approaches, looks at the first guy's smoking pile of clothes, sees the grenade, reads it, and picks it up. The third guy sees the second guy disintegrate and calls for backup before slowly proceeding on. I've probably explained all of the funny out of that joke but whatever.
The main plot os this movie IS that gag. One by one people go down in the one-person elevator and one by one they die. It's awesome. Aside from the fact that they're all bad Italian actors with either amazingly-bad dubbing or thick thick accents, their characters are incredibly stupid. It's really great. Really.
Then there's the cops who are looking for a rabid dog!???!? Completely unrelated for like 98% of the movie, this squad of cops led by this girl who is at the top of her game "scan the zone in quadrants" looking for the rabid beast who has rabies. In what is probably the funniest scene in the movie (for me anyway), she comes across several pools of blood in the white snow and as she's walking through it she finds a crossbow. She picks it up, says "Someone dropped an expensive weapons," hands it to a deputy and tells him to "take this back to the office lost and found box." Now THAT's policework. Incredible! It actually took me a few seconds to realize how amazing that was and I laughed for... a long time afterward. It's one of those ideas so absurd that it hits you in waves. Even after the movie was over I still reeled from it, thinking about her finding bullet casings next to a dead body riddled with holes and telling someone to clean up that mess lest someone trip.
So I really had a great time watching this movie. Plus I got a copy of Lady Terminator thanks to Mondo Macabro which fits perfectly with this vibe. Great stuff. hilarious.
And one final site-related note. It occurred to me a couple days ago that I haven't gotten any comments recently so I checked the form and found that something had broken. It's fixed now but on the offchance that there are readers who sent me an awesome comment in the past few weeks (before yesterday), I didn't get it. Sorry. Resend or hate me forever; the choice is yours!
|09.25.07||Moebius Redux: A Life in Pictures||Hasko Baumann||So... I remember the day Kier-La said she finally saw a Fantastic Fest screener that she liked and described how great this doc was. And now, since she's up in the Great White North instead of down here taking credit for all her hard work, I made seeing this my own personal tribute to her tastes. I think Matt Kiernan dedicating his awesome winning performance in Fantastic Fued to her and singing Ballroom Blitz in her honor is probably a better tribute but whatever.|
Speaking of last night, I'm not sure how seriously I can take this movie after seeing its director Hasko Baumann karaoke the Love Boat theme. Very Well. Apparently he did a rendition of Werewolves of London later on in the evening that blew everyone away. One guy in the audience said he sang like Leonard Cohen which is awesome. Luckily the movie's great and I didn't think about The Love Boat once while watching it.
He got a lot of great interviews (most notably Philippe Druillet and Alejandro Jodorowsky (which he said took a year and a half to get)) that painted a very good picture of Moebius the artist. He only touched on his personal life a tiny bit (when it influenced his work) and came off feeling much more like a celebration of the art than the person. That's not a bad thing in my book though, since I was fairly unfamiliar with the art and found it to be very interesting.
Good doc. I liked it a lot.
During the Q&A, someone asked Hasko what he wanted to work on next and he answered a doc about the Italian crime films of the 70s. People started cheering. Then he said hopefully that could get him back here and people cheered more. I am lining up to see that movie right now.
|09.25.07||The Warped Ones||Koreyoshi Kurahara||After the Moebius doc I kinda sorta gave Retribution a chance but the Japanese horror movie seemed very by-the-numbers. Granted I'm not a fan of the genre (it felt tired to me after the second one I saw) but this one seemed in a coma. I guess if I was really into them this could've been like Wrong Turn 2 - completely delivering on the execution even if there isn't much innocation - but... whatever. So I hopped into the end of Timecrimes' second screening to see Nacho's Q&A (which was hilarious. In describing why Hector 2's bandages were pink, he said it was a mix of the red blood and white bukkake. He said it so casually and quick that Tim had to back him up, triggering Nacho's little song about how the world is united under one word. Oh man, what a character.|
The Warped Ones is the second in the Nikkatsu retrospective, this one representing a MUCH different vibe than last night's stellar A Colt is My Passport. Instead of hard boiled crime, this is a juvenile delinquent story obssessed with jazz, the New Wave (Breathless in particular) and rebelling against Morality. Once again, it felt to me like the Japanese take on Rebel Without A Cause was so potent that it wound up being more human than human. Very extreme not to mention great.
While the genre kept me from liking it as much as last night's film (I'm a sucker for crime movies), there was still plenty of awesomality to go around. The main kid's tendency to grip his cigarette with his teeth while he flared his lips out was great, not to mention how he walked around like a beat icon stuck in a world of pretension, literally just standing there looking up at the ceiling while the bougeouis commented on his angst. Then he rapes a girl and there's a whole story about her ruined virtue and eventual pregnancy and all that stuff.
I think my favorite character was not this punk or his friend that hooks up with a gang but the friend's prostitute girlfriend. She reminded me a lot of Ann Savage in Detour in that her laugh is a cackle capable of cooling the warmest of hearts and she's so aggressive in her a-morality. Right before the rape scene, when the three of them have the girl unconsciouss in a sand dune, she says "I wish i were a man" and stomps off. Who wouldn't love a woman like that?
There were actually several great lines. "Only people who don't listen to jazz get into fights", "Are you having an abortion too?", and the immortal "I ate a chiken, I'm horny." Commit them to memory, people. Start using them today!
So I felt pretty special to get to see this movie (again with the makeshift screen for the manual subtitles) and to have author Mark Schilling here to explain its historical context and place in Nikkatsu history. For a series I initially wasn't too hot on I sure am winding up loving it a lot. I can't wait for tomorrow's Velvet Hustler: a film which Lars says is a perfect synthesis of the hard-boiled crime of A Colt is My passport and the New Wave freedom of The Warped Ones. MAN!
|09.25.07||The Backwoods||Koldo Serra||For Midnight I opted to see this Spanish movie starring Gary Oldman and Paddy Considine (as well as a REALLY hot girl and a still-hot-but-nowhere-near-as-much-as-the-other-one girl who both get briefly full-frontal. Pretty much everyone who saw it the first night said it was good so I was prepared to like it.|
Eh, this is another case where everyone around me liked it more than I did.
OK get this, Oldman and Considine are walking around in the woods going back to their isolated house after a day of hunting when they come upon another house. Oldman immediately says it looks abandoned and I guess it is run down and there's no car in the garage but his house looks run down too so... ok whatever. Then he sees that the front door is locked and chained and proceeds to KICK IT IN. Huh? Hey, abandoned house. TIME TO LOOT.
So after he looks around inside the house with his gun drawn like he's a complete house burglar, he notices that there's another locked door and he can hear movement behind it. So he breaks into that one too and finds a girl with webbed feet who's dirty and looks like she's fed from a dog bowl. So they take her home with them and clean her up. Assuming Oldman's character's a dick who likes home invasions, I guess I can buy that he's doing the right thing in rescuing this girl from neglect or whatever (even though she would totally be dead if someone wasn't keeping tabs on her). So the next morning, a bunch of rough dudes from the nearby village knock on the door asking if he's seen a little girl and he says no. At this point it's kidnapping right?
I dunno. I found the movie to be well-made technically speaking and although it was slow I had no problem staying awake and watching it, but I had a few problems with it, mainly that I didn't like any of the main characters from the get-go and spent the entire movie waiting for them all to die (and not all of them did, not even close). Oldman's a looting asshole who kidnapps and lies to his neighbors, Considine's a passive wimp who never becomes a man even when he starts killing people, the one girl whines the entire time and almost cancels out being so hot (almost), the other girl does absolutely nothing, yet the whole movie follows these people just so there can be a "twist" at the end where you're supposed to feel for the girl's dad (which I did anyway because I guess I value respect for other peoples' property over child abuse... I guess that's my problem).
This also suffers from the guys doing things I would never do in that situation. If I'm walking along in the woods in a Country I'm not too familiar with on new land that I've just bought and haven't spent much time on and I see a house off in the distance, I might go up and knock, I might get a little closer to see if anyone's home, I'd probably turn around and keep walking. If I did go kick the door down, find the girl, and feel a need to get to the police, I'd drive at a reasonable speed and keep my eye on the road no matter how much the people in the car with me bicker amongst themselves. After all, there may be a felled tree in the middle of the road so I may have to stop suddenly. Because way out in the wilderness like this, if my car breaks down I'm pretty much screwed, right? So I'd think about that before I barrelled down the road at night not looking where I was going. Right?
I guess that's just me. Maybe these problems are too small to be deemed worthy and I'm wrong for not loving this. I still think it was OK, just nothing special.
|09.26.07||The Devil's Chair||Adam Mason||A Jason Statham wannabe and a girl enter an abandoned looney bin or someplace where they find an electric chair thingamabob rigged withbones and shit. The girl sits in it and dies then the guy gets put in an un-abandoned looney bin until some old dude lets him out in order to fulfill some demonic blood prophecy.|
OR DOES HE!??!??!?!?
This movie was thoroughly mediocre. I really didn't like the Statham-esque main guy's constant commentary to the audience as it pulled me out of the movie every time it happened and made the BIG HUGE UNEXPECTED TWIST small and minute and completely expected. Yes there was lots of fake blood and an Alien-meets-hourse-skull demon but no real good gore aside from one sequence where you see wires snake under someone's skin in their arms. After that, it's just OK. Not sure I should've sacrificed the extra sleep for this but oh well. It just makes me that much more hardcore I guess.
However, the short that played before it - an animated film named Raymond - was awesome. I hope it's on youtube or something. you should totally do a search for it. it's only 5 minutes but it's cool and hilarious and awesome. Maybe my favorite short of the fest.
|09.26.07||Sex and Death 101||Daniel Waters||So the movie I was planning to see next was going to run right up against the secret screening (which I had heard was a big movie and good and aparently word spread to everyone so it was a pretty "open" secret but oh well) and, truth be told, it looked pretty crappy so I opted to see Sex and Death 101 again since it was in the Same theater and would allow me to get awesome seats.|
Uh, the movie was still funny but with more casual crowd there weren't nearly as many laughs. I don't really have that much more to say about it so instead I'll use this space to include a few comments I got today while out watching movies.
Kimberly Gibson says:
I love Simon Baker. I would pay to go and watch him reading the phone book, but this movie sounds like alot more fun. I think that he is enormously talented and quite under-rated. He has the ability to do both dramatic roles as well as comedy. Oh, and did I mention that he is sexy as hell and absolutely gorgeous!!
She then felt a need to send a second comment stating:
Just a few more words about Simon Baker. He's dreamy, charming, athletic and quite honestly, simply adorable. He is so watchable. Why don't more people know about Simon Baker? This guy is the real thing -- spread the word!
Kim, I don't know why more people don't know about Simon Baker! but We're sure doing our part now, aren't we!
|09.26.07||The Orphanage||Juan Antonio Bayona||So the third secret screening is Guillermo del Toro-presented The Orphanage. SURPRISE! Actually I didn't know for 100% sure until they announced it but... come on. The director and writer were there and Guillermo had a quick video intro to boot.|
Um... so it's about a woman who moves back into the orphanage of her past to renovate and re-open it but her adopted son (with invisible friends) disappears and she's led through a ghost story in her search to find him.
Everyone... well, most people around me seemed to really like it. So I'm in the minority here. But I couldn't get into it at all. It looks pretty, it's well-made and all, but I had problems (both big and small) that kept me from ever really enjoying it. The one that came immediately to mind, while not being the biggest, is that she has these huge iron poles in her closet. I GUESS they are leftovers from unseen scaffolding that went along to the faint offscreen audio of people working early in the film but for the most part they are just heavy iron poles clunking around in the closet and I have no idea why they're there. They kind of figure prominently in the story though - like they come into play two or three times - so every time they show up I thought "why are those even there?"
On a broader level, the movie seemed awfully familiar to me. I respect that a lot of the talent behind the film are first-timers and think it's not a bad movie in any conventional sense of the word, but the thing I look for from young filmmakers is not to see established stories executed very well. I leave that for the Woody Allens (Match Point) and David Cronenbergs (History of Violence). From young filmmakers I want something new, and nothing in this movie was new. I saw them getting together and saying "hey! Let's see if we can make a movie just like everyone else's!" and in that they were successfull. The car kill, the paranormal research, the creepy ghost children, the haunted house... they've all been done better in other films and without anything original to hang onto it all feels like reproductions to me.
And the music was awful. Talk about manipulating emotions. I think the Patch Adams score was less blatant. There were a couple of jump scares where I knew something was coming but still jumped because of pure reflex. It's like the music included gunshots right next to your ear to ensure you will react. Not cool.
I feel bad being a negative nelly about this. I truly honestly wanted to like it but... I mean really, what doctor would even attempt CPR or mouth-to-mouth on someone looking like that?
|09.26.07||Velvet Hustler||Toshio Masuda||Rounding out the Nikkatsu Action retrospective, Velvet Hustler is about Goro, a hitman hanging out in Kobe because he's wanted in Tokyo and disenfranchised with everything. As Lars said, this movie is pretty much a perfect synthesis of both shown previously, encapsulating the crime elements of A Colt is My Passport (there's even similar plot twists) with the New Wave influence of The Warped Ones. The result is a more experimental meandering film that drifts in and out of noir elements in a haze of long takes, anguished conversations, and lots and lots of cigarettes.|
I've been thinking about what my favorite thing about Goro is - he's pretty much the coolest guy ever so there's a lot to choose from - and I think I've settled on how he dances. His white suit and the hole in his hat and the way he guzzles liquor while making out are good, but I think his dance skills beat them out. There's a scene where he starts dancing in the club he owns and lines of people form up behind him and follow along. I was instantly reminded of Band of Outsiders when the three main parts dance in that cafe (I think it might've been the Madison?) and also the beginning credits of Kung Fu Hustle where all the gangsters dance (my favorite part of that movie by the way), but Goro takes the stoneface air of apathy on display in both of those movies to an extreme, literally stumbling forward and back with his eyes closed, expending as little energy as possible. At first I just thought it was a weird little transcendent moment in the film like when a girl starts singing a pop song for no reason but there's a later scene where Goro dances with a girl and he does the same thing! It's so cool I can't even believe it.
If i ever get to make a movie, i MUST remember to have either my heavy or my hero smoke his cigarette with his teeth rather than his lips. I don't know if I've ever seen this before these films (and, not being a smoker, I'm not privy to the secret world of smoking technique) but damn if it isn't an awesome small touch.
So, due to my personal bias toward noir and differences in tone and pacing between the films, I think Colt eeks this out as being my favorite of the three but this is right up there. Jo Shishido's character in this one is really great (I love the scene where the girl catches him surveilling or camping or whatever he's doing and the scene where he's targetting them on a carnival ride) and all the performances are wonderful, but the New Wave touches slow the movie down a bit and the ending is tragic rather than triumphant so I think, as a viewing experience, Colt packs more of a punch for me. I'll tell you what though. I'd love to have all three on DVD to watch whenever I want because I suspect that Velvet Hustler will grow in my mind the more I think about it. One of the things I've learned from the gathering of really smart and experienced people in town for the fest is how much of a tyrant Criterion is with its unreleased titles. Apparently they own the rights to all these films but have no plans to release them and are unwilling to sell to anyone else who would put them out. I just hope an Explise box set makes it out sometime or something. It's a real shame to know that these films could be readily available in the states but aren't.
All in all, it was an amazing series of films and I'm super glad I saw all of them.
|09.26.07||Taxidermia||Gyorgy Palfi||And for midnight: Taxidermia.|
Taxidermia... How can I even try to explain it.
Well, Amon Tobin did the music. That's a start.
For the record, I love Amon Tobin and his music fits the film perfectly.
This might be my favorite new movie of the festival.
That probably puts me on some FBI list or something, but I can't think of another movie (aside from the Nikkatsu films) that I've walked out of so excited and fulfilled.
Yeah. I'm not even going to try to explain it. It's just so great... I won't ruin it with words.
|09.27.07||Finishing the Game||Justin Lin||Last day! I started off with this movie about casting Bruce Lee's replacement for The Game of Death. Honestly, I'd heard it was either mediocre or barely good and I got what I expected. I think it's an interesting idea but the movie isn't as inspired or developed as it needs to be. Instead, it's mildly funny jokes that make you mildly laugh sometimes and overall pretty forgettable. Not bad, not good.|
|09.27.07||Kiltro||Ernesto Díaz Espinoza||The first movie from the Mirageman guys. This one's very different in tone and much more of a conventional martial arts picture where the dude seeks revenge so he sojourns and goes through training to meet his opponent at the end. There was still some humor thrown in and I loved the heavily Italian Western-influenced score but I also didn't like how long it took to get to any action. And the CG blood, intentionally or not, makes the movie very comic booky. |
And Marko Zaror shows his butt off.
It was good though. I liked Mirageman more but whatever. I'm glad I saw this instead of standing in line for the closing night film. Thanks to Tiffany and Patrick and Ryan and Victor for saving me a seat so I could see this!
|09.27.07||There Will Be Blood||Paul Thomas Anderson||There Will Be Blood. Closing Night film for Fantastic Fest 2007. At first it seems like this is a pretty bad programming choice for a genre festival (not that I can blame them. How do you say no to the first public screening of a PTA film!?) but after watching the movie I'm convinced it fit in perfectly. Perhaps it's even better seen in these circumstances because it takes a while to creep up on you and you start noticing similar elements and themes and before you know it you're watching a horror film with Daniel Day Lewis playing a monster.|
I'm going to stay spoiler free here... I really don't want to ruin anything since the marketting for the film has been so great without giving much away. So the long and short of it is I loved it. I loved the beginning - the ambitious tour de force beginning that further establishes PTA's maturity as a filmaker - the middle - the subtle and playful middle shocks and consumes you - and the ending - the Citizen Kane horrific ending. It doesn't feel like a PTA film yet it does. The music is utterly amazing and not only fits the film but also informs it. I love the lush strings and occasional relentless percussion that fit the scenes so perfectly that although it may initially seem like an odd choice, after the scene's over you can't imagine it with any other piece of music. The photography was amazing, production design unbelievable, all the way down the line top notch quality.
And then there's Daniel Day Lewis. Watching this is like seeing a whole movie's worth of the best couple scenes in Gangs of New York. I think he's in pretty much every shot and for good reason. I mean yeah, Paul Dano does some strong work and there's a few other familiar faces (no PTA Alums though, or at least I didn't catch any) but by and large this is DDL's movie and he makes the most of it.
I honestly have no clue how long this movie is. I was completely transported. I think PTA mentioned it was two and a half hours but it could've just as easily have been 90 minutes for all I knew. Such an enthralling experience.
So OK, I lied. I have to talk about specifics. Just for this next paragraph. Skip down unless you've seen the film.
How batshit crazy is that ending??? Holy shit! At first I was like "ahhh that's awesome he's rubbing it in!" and then I was like "hah! he got his ass!" but then I was like "man that's so great! I SUCK YOUR MILKSHAKE!!!" but THEN I was like "ohhhhhhh my god" but T H E N I was like "spooge" because the ending is so incredibly awesome that I can't even believe it. And the beginning! He sets up this characters entire history with zero talking. You see where he came from, what's formed him, that itchy connection to the land that drives him and keeps him from any sort of human relationship. When he finally does speak he's already conning. He's lying from the first moment we hear his voice. So really, all of his character "development" happens in that first 15 or 20 minutes before he says a single word, because lord knows he doesn't change once he starts. It's just incredible filmmaking I can't believe it. And how about that driving percussion when the derrick burns holy fucking shit! Leave it to PTA to have the oil burn at magic hour and cover the flame against darkness and the actors in near sillhouette with the faded sky behind them and huge billious clouds of black rolling over their heads. So beautiful yet also completely serving the story. man oh man oh man!
So yeah, this really really blew me away. I'll be honest, I didn't love Punch Drunk Love and I've still only seen it once (it probably deserves another viewing now to see what's what) but this... this is really a masterpiece. Film as art. All cylinders firing. I can't wait to see it again.
This film so affected me that I decided not to see one more film (which I'd heard was good and had previously been looking forward to) because I wanted this to be my last film of the fest. It's still washing over me several hours later as I type this (at 4am), so even though everyone I talked to said the movie I was going to see was great (Inside), I don't regret it.
So instead of the movie I stayed for the awards ceremony. It started off with a quick video of the various events that happened during the week: George Romero talking about how awesome Austin was, Marko Zaror kicking over Henri's head, Zack getting a groin full of guts shot out of a cannon, filmmakers shooting shotguns, Tim christening The Ritz as awesome, Zack Ward telling us to suck his cock, Kareoke madness, Tim slipping off a podium, and other scenes I forget. It was a fun video and although it was more than a little bit "look at how awesome we are" I still wanted it to go on for like 14 more minutes. Then They announced the winner of the Reel Heroes contest where the kids made little festival bumpers (Red Cape won which is good although I also really liked Shark Vadar... both of them are better seen than described; I'm sure they're on youtube) then since the Red Cape kids were in Minnesota they taped an acceptance speech (also on youtube) that was hilarious. Then they announced the Bloodshots winners and Comedia a Go Go's "LARP" won which is awesome and they showed that again and people laughed then they got down to the festival awards.
Basically the big winners of the fest were Timecrimes and Mirageman.
After that we all went over to the afterparty where I suppose fun was had although PTA seemed to be roped in by Harry the entire time. Oh well. I learned that he went for BBQ with the super special VIPs earlier that day and got up to some awesome firework-related hijinx the night before that made me jealous of everyone that was there. I either need to figure a way into that secret club or move away and make a film that gets into the fest so i can come back and have Tim put me up in his attic so I can be in on all this awesomeness going on. I can't complain too much because I was seeing movies during this time, but still. From what I understand PTA loves Small Soldiers and Pan's Labrynth. Go figure.
And now it's all over and done with for another year (this is the recap section of this write-up). Remembering how opposite of excited I was for this a week ago, I must admit I had a much much much better time than I expected. I really liked the slight expansion of genre this year. I thought the action and crime and comedies included for those wishing for a break between horror films helped a lot with sensory overload and festival fatigue. They've also come that much closer to streamlining the queueing process and presenting their fest in fun and different ways. I still miss the casual air of the first year when no one was there so there wasn't a mad rush to seats for every show, but lost conversations in lines were gained sitting in theaters so that more or less evens out. And The programming in general just seemed a lot better this year. Although I didn't like any of the AICN Secret screenings, all was forgiven with the Closing Night Film and I think expectations will be more tempered next year if they differentiate between the big AICN worth-waiting-4-hours films and the more typical Fantastic Fest screening where you should expect something new and interesting but not necessarily the big Oscar movie 4 months early.
Also, I think a highlight for everyone was Monday's Fantastic Fued/Kareoke party. I know SXSW has like 4 parties every night for various films but I don't think any of them are actually in the theater. Having everyone cut loose in the middle of the festival both made for some excellent stories and made the Alamo and the festival seem that much cooler to just about everyone.
There's always going to be some films that aren't as good as others, but I really only saw one movie where I was sitting there waiting for it to end and only a few more that I thought were merely mediocre. That's actually very good as my memories of last year's fest was that most of it was paralyzingly mediocre with a few good films at the end. I know a lot of work and money went into the films this year and I think it paid off. The Nikkatsu series was a highlight for everyone in the surprisingly well-attended screenings I'd bet and the Honk Kong action movies went over real well too. I don't know, I'm impressed. I didn't have any "bad days" at all. I am broke and sick of the Alamo menu but... hey i got to eat more than popcorn or candy at all these movies! how can i complain about getting tired of the pizza.
So let's see. How about some lists.
1. There Will Be Blood
2. A Colt is My Passport
5. Velvet Hustler
(Special mentions to Raymond and The Tale of How, two amazing animated shorts)
Favorite Non-film moments
-Seeing Nacho sing Tainted Love with Austin
-Seeing Tim secretly high-five Henri during the Postal Q&A
-seeing Paul fucking Thomas goddamn Anderson in an Alamo.
-Both Timecrimes Q&As. We sure do love Nacho Vigalondo here
-Gary's Touch. Even though it was technically a short film, watching it felt like a non-film experience.
Biggest running themes in this year's movies
-People getting run over
So that's that. Fantastic Fest 2007 is over and done with. I guess I can go to bed now.