|FantasticFest 2008 (09.18.08 - 09.25.08, 16 movies)|
|09.18.08||How to Get Rid of The Others||Anders Ronnow Klarlund||Another Fantastic Fest begins (for me). This year I am taking a decidedly casual tact with the festival. Since I couldn't get any time off work, I'm planning to see what looks good to me during the weekend and then trickle down to whatever's playing at night during the week. As such, I don't want to see any bad movies so my selection is less adventurous. I had to miss the opening night film and a im-sure-it-was-entertaining QA by Kevin Smith and when I got down to the theater to pick up my VIP badge Fanboys was already filled up, but eh... I'm finding that I don't really care about missing either of those, which is refreshing.|
So this movie - the only movie I saw on opening day - is a Danish film that presupposes that the government has discovered that a small percentage of its citizens consume a drastically inordinate percentage of the country's resources (welfare, grants, health costs, etc.) so they decide to eliminate them. The movie follows one group of people who are rounded up in a school-turned-concentration-camp and one by one interviewed to evaluate their societal worth. It's an interesting premise and played completely straight. In fact, I thought several times that maybe thinking this movie was a comedy (which it is) is a pretty bad thing. Maybe this should be straight-up horror. I guess that's the vibe that Fantastic Fest has always strived for in their programming though so I guess that's a good thing.
The movie was good; funny. The end got a little eh but whatever. For the most part I liked it.
|09.19.08||Tokyo!||Michel Gondry, Jeos Carax, Joon-ho Bong||Day two starts mid-afternoon, which is good because I have to pack a weekend full of chores into one morning... ok so I only did one load of laundry but whatever. Getting my ticket numbers, I come to realize that the VIP advantage of picking your tickets up the day beforehand is pretty huge. Since it's already 3, i'm in the 50s for everything tomorrow. This ticketting system makes for more pandemonium in the lobby and pretty much eliminates any last-minute changes based on feedback (which makes any idle chit-chat with the festival-goers I see once a year pretty much a moot point since it's probably too late to re-arrange my schedule to fit anything else in) but knowing where you're at in the seat count is pretty nice.|
Anyway, I wanted to see this anthology about Tokyo pretty much just for Michel Gondry's segment. While I still like most of what Gondry's released theatrically, I still think he has yet to fully nail something with the same innovative perfection of his music videos. It'd help if he made something with a happy ending. Anyway, his name got me in the door so I can't say I regret watching this, but...
All three stories felt too long to me and went in weird arbitrary directions that made no sense. The closest I came to actively liking it was the beginning of Leos Carax's story titled Merde, where - to the tune of Destroy All Monsters score - a weird guy with a crooked goatee and an ill-fitting green suit crawled out of the sewer and walked down the street with a random sense of mayhem. He steals flowers from girls and eats them, steals a guy's wallet and takes the money out and eats it, walks up to a teenage girl and licks her armpit; all in pretty much one continuous shot, all while doing an odd walk and making weird grunting sounds. Then he climbs back into the sewer. Cut to a news studio with two anchors looking serious. The headline: Tokyo is afraid. For those 4 minutes I thought it was great. Some sort of homage to the Honda monster movies and statement about the passivity of Tokyo's people, maybe even a comment on American imperialism to boot, why not. But no, then we have to follow the guy around in the sewers until he discovers old bunker grenades which he uses to kill and mutilate scores of innocent bystanders and a protracted courtroom scene follows with a weird French guy who shares his language, goatee, and unclipped fingernails. They talk in their little fake language for like 15 minutes. It's stupid.
So anyway, didn't really enjoy it too much but I'm glad to have seen it. All three stories border on interesting but ultimately don't come together for me at all.
|09.19.08||Surveillance||Jennifer Lynch||Shame on me for still not having seen Boxing Helena I guess. People in creepy looking latex masks are brutally killing people across the midwest and Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond play FBI agents interviewing witnesses of one such incident in a local sheriff's office. Michael Ironside is also in it as the local Sheriff and French Stewart has some fun as a cop who dies. Oh, I should mention that I'm going to spoil the movie so don't read any further if you care. Not that the French Stewart thing is a spoiler because he starts off the movie dead and is only seen in flashback.|
Anyway, Pullman and Ormond are the killers. Ta Da!!! OK, so from the very beginning, Pullman plays his character pretty tightly-wound and they have a cryptic conversation in their car that is probably clever enough to mean something else the second time. So you immediately suspect that it's them and then you only meet like 4 other characters so by 10 minutes in I was thinking I'd be more surprised if they weren't the killers than if they were. So here's the thing. When Pullman unveils the surprise and is all like "I'm the killer, yay!" I was still into the movie. I wasn't groaning (because I'd already done that in the first scene) and I really didn't even see it as a mystery since it was so telescoped, but damn if Pullman's performance didn't keep me interesting. Ormond's too. They have a scene with them and Pell James that is pretty disturbing in no small part because it turned me on. I can picture Tim League sitting somewhere watching this for the first time and seeing that scene and thinking "book it." So Pullman's odd yet riveting performance, that one creepy hot scene, and Ormond being naughty all made it worthwhile for me. I hate to say this (especially if the writer reads this) but I think the script was the weakest part. I don't see a solution to his problem of making the question of who is the killer unguessable but... oh well. So as long as you don't depend on plot twists to enjoy yourself, this is pretty good.
|09.19.08||Your Name Here||Matthew Wilder||Part two of the Bill Pullman double feature is this (to quote him) "Fantasia of the last days of Phillip K. Dick." In short, it's pretty inaccessible. I was strongly reminded of Brreakfast of Champions or Southland Tales, except I don't think this film is as bad as those. I think for hardcore Phil Dick fans this is pretty enjoyable. For casual fans (like myself) or others, perhaps not.|
I will say that I very much enjoyed seeing Harold Perrineau playing Richard Roundtree and Charles Napier playing Charlton Heston. And Taryn Manning's breasts. And most of all Bill Pullman's performance. If it were a tour I'd say he qualifies for de-force status.
I should also mention that Bill Pullman was here to intro and Q&A both movies! He seemed pretty great and had no trouble filling the gaps with interesting stories, kooky mannerisms and pretty poor jokes. I loved it. I saw Earl from Ruthless People, Lone Star from Spaceballs, whoever he played in Lost Highway and Zero Effect all wrapped into one. It's funny; Tim kind of asked if these weird movies were the "real" Bill Pullman or if this was just a phase and I immediately remember the Zero Effect commentary where Jake Kasdan mentioned all the oddball ideas floating around in Bill's head. It makes perfect sense to me. I mean let's not forget that he was in Serpent and the Rainbow, not to mention Brain Dead (with his oft-confused Bill brother Paxton)... Those are pretty weird movies, man. So I commend Bill Pullman for staying true to his sensibilities after all these years. I think he's definitely a talented working actor that refuses to get lazy.
|09.19.08||Feast 2: Sloppy Seconds||John Gulager||So... seeing the first Feast at the first Fantastic Fest was pretty fun. It was better than I thought it'd be, it was fun to see the people from Project Greenlight in person, and it made for a pretty enjoyable midnight romp at the Alamo. It seemed fitting then to see the second one at a Fantastic Fest as well, especially with Gulager patron Clu in tow. Return of the Living Dead! The Killers! Last Picture Show! Clu Gulager! Son in a certain sense, sitting through this movie was worth it just for the Q&A when he took the mic and said all sorts of nice fatherly things about his sons and the production.|
I also liked the Q&A because it turned out that the cute tattoo'd biker gang girls who got naked in the movie were sitting right behind me and admitted to all being on a porn site. Of course I didn't pay attention to which (godsgirls.com, there's a free tour).
The movie... Well, I was pretty tired by the end of it. I was expecting it to just end because of how they shot part 2 with part 3 but the ending was pretty damn blunt. The movie also seemed like a lot of talking about doing things. Not much happened. It had the same fun tone jacked up with kitchen sink ideas that probably read better than actual execution allowed (like having a badass biker gang pair up with a used car salesman and midget luchadore brothers), but you know... the idea was fun enough. The problem is that nobody actually did anything. I probably enjoyed the director's brother's role the most. He definitely had the highlight of the film when he tries to save a baby and says "fuck it" halfway through. I also like how he wanted to autopsy the monster but that went on way too long. Everything went on way too long. Ugh.
But the Q&A was fun, especially when someone (whose name rhymes with targill) asked if it was done or if they were still working on the effects. "Also, John, I'd like to ask if you're pregnant or just fat." OK he didn't say that, but I bet Gulager would've had a better time answering. Clu!
|09.20.08||Estomago||Marcos Jorge||Day Three. The early start definitely helped my place in line for tomorrow's films. It dawned on me though that I'd have to come down here on my lunch hours Tuesday and Wednesday to make sure I get decent seats for Wednesday night's secret screening (which I seem to know what it is due to a publishing discrepency) and Thursday's closing night film (which I also seem to know due to another publishing discrepency. Huh, guess my friends' literacy is really coming in handy, as are the ads in this year's program book).|
This was... All I knew was that it was about food, which means it probably had some cannibalism. I remembered that Japanese film from two years ago that turned my stomach a little bit with the human fat frying and thought this would probably be worth watching. It was I guess, although I thought it was missing a climax or an ending or something bigger than I got considering the build-up. There are overtones of Perfume, Donnie Brasco, and that prison movie with the dude with breasts that played the first FF all rolled together with cooking tips and Brazilian hookers wearing sexy outfits. Again, I can't say it was bad, but it didn't blow me away.
The VIP badges selling out in two hours did though. I thought the price increase was pretty steep for one year but, once again, bought one just because.... hey, it's the alamo. I was pretty shocked though to learn that they sold out in 2 friggin hours. I hope they held a few back to release or award throughout the year. I know several people who forgot and are not relegated to non-VIP status. Depending on how they do the ticketing next year, it may not matter anyway. I'd rather have them sell out in two hours than sell 800 and have the VIP mean nothing.
|09.20.08||I Think We're Alone Now||Seasn Donnelly||I'd heard a lot of good things about thid doc but can't remember where. It's about two people obsessed with 80s pop singer Tiffany and it's pretty disturbing. Mostly it's sad because these people have some serious problems and it makes you realize how everybody's life is not alright in this world. But then you can't help but laugh because they're funny or the way they are causes them to be funny and that makes you feel worse for laughing. In his intro, Rodney said that we had a special guest in the audience and that he was in the movie, so I spent the entire time hoping whoever it was wasn't being too crushed by everyone's laughter. In the end it turned out to be the main stalker's friend, which was pretty great because he had a really great turn in the movie where you start off thinking he's kind of the base, the guy who has it together, and then he mentions Jeff's connections to secret society information and how his masters in History allows him to communicate with Jeff on these matters and you realize this guy is just a different kind of nut. (perhaps we all are huh? HUH!!?).|
Then there's also the layer of seeing Tiffany, once a huge superstar nowing playing free beach shows and gay clubs in Vegas. So many layers of sadness on display here, yet everyone in the film refuses to give up. They've led incredibly hard lives (one has Asperger's, the other is a hermaphrodite (and not one of the passable ones that can get by on kink porn)) but that just somehow fuels their will and motivation. It's scary, sad, funny, and fascinating. Really good doc.
After that came the short films of Nacho Vigalondo. I think it's great that Tim League and Fantastic Fest work to cultivate friendships with talent and program extra events just for the talent, and it's great to see familiar faces like the brits from year two and Nacho - even if he really doesn't have anything new to show - but I have to wonder how much of the newly-increased ticket price goes to the alamo guys getting to hang out with friends for another week. Eww, enough pessimism, it's Nacho time!
His shorts were good, clearly illustrating his sense of humor and innovative technique. I actually liked his first one the most, involving throwing a "batball" at a cow as a lesson in filmmaking, but they were all enjoyable as was his intros and Q&A. FantasticFest loves Nacho so it's great to see him again. Hopefully next year he's back with a new feature.
|09.20.08||Let the Right One In||Tomas Alfredson||Zack recommended I see this over whatever else was playing in its timeslot. I then heard from Eric that it's very good and Scott Weinberg said it was the best horror movie he'd seen in 5 (later 10-15) years. Huh.|
It's a Swedish film about a little boy and a little girl that he befriends who happens to be a vampire. It's kind of a lot like My Girl in some ways, but not really. Mostly I just want it to be so I could say that. Actually, it's kind of what you would expect. There's the sweet boy and girl romance, the relationship between the girl and her father, and the townsfolk who start disappearing as soon as they show up.
I can't say it blew me into next week or whatever, but i did enjoy it and I must say the final scene is pretty great and well-earned. I think this is a vampire movie that women could enjoy. I thought it was good; not mind-blowing.
|09.20.08||Acolytes||Jon Hewitt||This is about a triad of Australian youths who discover a killer burying a body in some woods and decide to use their leverage to get him to kill their bullyish enemy instead of turning him into cops. Things happen, events unfold, intrigue ensues.|
I more or less liked this movie with the exception of the two dozen cheap loud noise scares. Too many "Boo!"s or music swells leading to intense silences. In his Q&A the director mentioned that was a way to build suspense on a budget but whatever. Let the story stand for itself.
It wasn't bad though, had its moments. Even if I have no clue where those two guys came from who beat up Parker before the Red 4x4 got to him, or why Parker was driving fast through the forest, or how 4x4 even found whatshername's body, but oh well.
|09.21.08||Dark Age||Arch Nicholson||Day whatever starts with watching this again because I figured I should see at least one of the Ozsploitation retrospective movies of this fest. I still liked it about as much as Pirahna or something like that; a solid Jaws knock-off (although I learned today that apparently this was more a Razorback knock-off than anything else, huh!). Yes, the croc did look pretty crappy on the land, but I still think it's pretty effective the first few times you see it just due to its immense size. I also love how he eats a kid's head. It caught me by surprise yet again because the scene so totally reflects the one in Jaws where Brodie's son narrowly escapes death. Not this poor crying tike. HEAD CHOMP'D|
Anyway, good times.
Next up were the animated shorts. My favorites were the one with the video game recreations, the film noir one, the one where it repeatedly zooms into the changing photograph, and the French one with the mail order body... oh and the bubble wrap one. that one was genius. I think my favorite though is the graffiti one. That was just amazing. I still can't believe they did that.
|09.21.08||Not Quite Hollywood||Mark Hartley||I find it kind of chuckle-worthy that the documentary programming has historically had my most highly-anticipated viewings in all the Fantastic Fests. This was no exception. It's everything that a dissertation on the boom of Australian exploitation cinema should've been. I can't imagine it being any better unless it was paired with a special feature about the completely odd Australian fad that the States had about the same time as these movies were being made. Croc Dundee, Young Einstein, boomerangs, Roos... The vintage Foster's spots that they've been playing in front of every show have seriously brought that wave of nostalgia back for me. What happened back then!?|
Anyway, this doc was great and - of course - put a few more films on my list. Things like Fair Game and Dead-End Drive-In and most of all Next of Kin. That film looked amazing. I'll have to check all of those out.
Also, since I may not be up for Thursday's Turkey Shoot screening, it was great to see Brian Trenchard Smith and hear him talk a little bit. As expected, he's a pretty great speaker and all of his answers and anecdotes were pretty great.
|09.21.08||JCVD||Mabrouk El Mechri||JCVD is probably the biggest buzzed movie of the fest. Everyone walking out of the first screening raved about how good it is. "That monologue! like ZOMG!" yadda yadda yadda. I was curious about it, not excited. Yes it was good. Yes Jean Claude cries during an extended monologue and it's pretty impressive. Yes it's exactly the kind of movie that could reform someone like Jean Claude Van Damme out of a joke status and back into a star. It's a very smart move on his part. It's basically a redemptive cry of frustration falling on perhaps the best ears in the world to accept such a message: the Fantastic Fest audience.|
I'm not sure how well this will do anywhere else, but JCVD is now a hero in the Alamo halls.
|09.24.08||The Tingler||William Castle||After a few days off, I return to FantasticFest with a mild cold and extreme knewly-learned Java prowess under my belt. Work kept me from seeing the doc on Castle but I wanted to partake in this screening because I'd never seen it, it was going to be in "Percepto" (meaning some of the seats were wired to shock just like in the old days), and - truth be told - the newly-announced secret screening was sold out before noon when I got down there to pick up my tickets. Not to gripe, since I'll have the ability to see Appaloosa sometime soon, but I specifically asked the guy on Tuesday when they open so I could come down and get a good seat for tonight's midnight secret screening and he told me noon, yet I know someone who showed up at 11 and they were open and he got a decent ticket. Oh well.|
Anyway, this was a fun enough movie. I liked that Lars spent the pre-show looking at the backs of chairs and announcing which seats were "comfortable" for anyone who wanted to sit there. Ryan was psyched to get one of these "comfortable seats." They also handed out life insurance slips to anyone who dies "of fright" which made it fun. The movie is your basic low-budget 50s child-friendly horror movies. Vincent Price is pretty awesome of course but mostly it's the type of movie that you might catch on TCM on a Sunday afternoon or something and have a good time with (or typically something I'd put in my DVRfest: a nice old-school palate-cleanser). I like how they incorporate the theater with the real theater too. This was fun.
|09.24.08||Alien Raiders||Ben Rock||A group takes a grocery store hostage and looks for an alien king being hosted in one of the human bodies. As the director said it was explained to him when he got the job, this movie is basically The Thing meets Dog Day Afternoon. It's very low budget, the biggest names they could get were Tony Almeda from 24 and the black boyfriend from Six Feet Under, and there's really nothing original about it. That said, for what it was it was pretty good. Judging from the picture in the program book, I figured it could've gone either way: fun direct-to-video romp or unwatchable piece of crap. It was pretty watchable. The lack of CG with the alien creatures was refreshing.|
|09.24.08||Role Models||David Wain||For the midnight secret screening, all week we were pretty much sure this would be My Name is Bruce, but by the end cracks in our logic started showing through. Apparently, on Bruce Campbell's website he had listed him being in town on this date showing that movie. Similar to the "secret" of the closing night film, there's an ad for My Name is Bruce in the program book. Pretty straight forward. But then I saw the October Alamo ad reel and they're advertising his appearance there, plus if it's authorized to be on Cambell's website why wouldn't they want festivalgoers to know he'd be there... so there were doubts. Then it was this.|
This was pretty conventional. Some would say formulaic. Others would say it's paint by numbers comedy. I can't really dispute that. Exactly what you think happens in a story about a couple of immature douchebag guys forced to take care of socially-awkward-in-a-humorous-way kids happens. No surprises, no deviations, nothing off-center at all (which is surprising coming from Wain). Here's the thing though: I laughed. I laughed a lot. I thought the jokes were funny and Paul Rudd had good chemistry with Seann William Scott and I even got a kick out of Jane Lynch's one-joke character. I know it doesn't make sense, but I also can't deny that I enjoyed myself. the term "Whispering Eye" is hilarious, Rudd's analysis of Starbucks preached straight to my soul, and what can I say other than I liked it!
|09.25.08||City of Ember||Gil Kenan||The Closing Night film this year was unanounced in the schedule and the program guide. This is pretty odd because the sponsors which adorm the little Fantastic Fest backdrops seen in every theater and every video released this year have the logos for Fox and the film itself among AMD and Fosters and Gamecock. And it's a full page ad on the back cover of the program guide. The only reasons I can think of for keeping this film a "secret" are derogatory so I'll just move on.|
At least they got Bill Murray! That came as an honest surprise to me. He came out and helped the director with an intro, did a Q&A afterward, and apparently hung out at the closing night party (which I didn't go to for various reasons, but pictured Darren Aronofsky pinned into a corner at Barton Creek Saloon between a wheelchair and an old man, unable to speak to anyone for any longer than a certain webmaster dictated. I'd like to think this wasn't true of Murray, I'll have to ask someone who went).
Murray was about as cool as you'd expect him to be.
The movie... had good sets and costumes.