|FantasticFest 2011 (09.22.11 - 09.29.11, 30 movies)|
|09.22.11||Let the Bullets Fly||Wen Jiang||For the seventh time, I'm going to Fantastic Fest.|
So... fair warning. Once again I'm doing the festival while working the mornings, so I'm skipping most of the weekday midnights and will have to miss a few of the matinees due to trying to keep a 4-hour schedule at work. Not ideal, but it beats going broke. So therefore I'm writing these notes at work (shhh!). Therefore therefore, the length of these notes will be directly proportional to (a) the amount of work I have to do and (b) how many hours I have until having to leave for the theater again. Today, for instance, I'm in at 8:30 and out at 10:30 so these will probably be short. Or not; who knows!
So... I think I've pretty much honed my scheduling strategy to pick movies I think I'll like. I don't care if they're readily available on netflix streaming, I'll still probably never see them outside of the fest so I may as well enjoy myself now instead of sitting through some obscure crap and having homework assignments.
Case in point: this movie. I guess it's China's highest grossing film or whatever... All I knew is that it sounded more appealing than a comedy about a guy who keeps a kid locked in his basement (which I heard was good by the way; who knew!). It's a colorful mainstream action comedy slightly resembling Yojimbo (it's no Yojimbo) or Robin Hood (it's better than most versions of Robin Hood) where a good-natured bandit pretends to be a corrupt governor in order to oust a local mob boss in 1920s rural China. Chow Yun-fat plays the godfather character with equal parts humor and evil.
This movie... doesn't suck. For what I thought it would be, it delivered sufficiently. It certainly could have been a LOT worse and I enjoyed myself for the most part, which was the whole goal. I don't think it'll be in my top 5 or whatever, but I could certainly deal with seeing solid 7s all festival rather than have to sit through some 3s and get one or two 9s. Or maybe I wouldn't... interesting. Hopefully I'll still get the 9s but instead of the 3s I'll see 7s. I guess that's what everyone's trying to do. Interesting. Or not, ok next movie.
|09.22.11||Haunters||Min-suk Kim||Haunters is about a ghost girl who lives in a toilet and freaks people out whenever they poop.|
Actually it's not. It's really about this dude who has eyes that let him control everybody he sees, except for this other dude who for some reason heals really quickly and can break free of dude A's mind control. They meet, they fight, they chase after each other for a while, then the movie ends.
I actually really enjoyed like 70% of this movie. The good guy's buddys made great supportive comic relief and I'm always a sucker for realistic portrayals of super powers. The only real problems I had with it were that it went on too long and the two main dudes start talking like they are fatalistic enemies destined to always be at odds with each other. All this talk of dude B causing the death of all his friends and dude A has it so tough being different and blahbedy blah. I thought there could be more to explore with both of their relationship if the movie didn't have to force itself into some chase-y action flick.
Still, not bad at all. Definitely some interesting situations.
Oh, I also loved when dude B slams on his breaks after trying to hit dude A with his van. The van goes up like onto its grill with momentum. Funny visual gag in the middle of a tense scene.
|09.22.11||The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)||Tom Six||Opening night film. I was in theater one so I didn't see the stars on stage but I guess they did the Yo Gabba Gabba dance party, poo sausage eating contest, and director q&a in both theaters.|
Yo Gabba Gabba dance party: Tim League gets on stage and shows a picture of his newborn twins to the audience, then says that since the birthing, his definition of "fantastic" has changed a bit to include fun for the whole family, so he pulls Elijah Wood on stage and they start playing his clip from Yo Gabba Gabba. They make the crowd get up and do his weird puppet dance then all of a sudden the whole Alamo/festival staff runs in with yellow shirts doing this weird dance. Henri is dressed up as one of the... Gabboids? (i have no idea) and we all dance for a while then they show a montage of exploding heads on the screen and the movie starts...
...but not before Nick Robinson's vasectomy bumper. Fantastic.
So... the movie... ok, here's my lasting positive memory of the first film: Very well-made, crazy idea that's treated with remarkable restraint, and amazing charisma from the evil doctor that made it ok to laugh.
The sequel is all in gritty hand-held black and white, mostly following this one guy Martin who's like almost a midget with bug eyes and balding pate and huge bulging belly. It's a silent role with no dialogue, but we spend the entire film with him and see that he's obsessed with the first film and decides to make his own human centipede.
There's a shit-ton of gore, so much so that I'm convinced it wouldn't work in color because, especially by the end, the sheer amount of blood on screen would end your suspension of disbelief. Where in the first film Six showed just enough, in this one he shows everything. Surprise, it doesn't work as well!
And since the lead doesn't really talk, there's no charisma. We revel in his disgusting physicality and the whole movie is gross but there's no laughs. True, there are some shock moments with twisted ideas I've never seen before, but they seem more in the vein of deliberately trying to one-up A Serbian Film than anything organic to this film.
So, compared to the first one, it doesn't look as good, shows no restraint, and has no levity.
Also, i swear I saw the color brown during one scene. It's a black and white movie but there's brown in there, right, Mr. Six!?
Afterward, Six said that the third one (final sequence) would be the "coolest" of the saga, be shot in America, have a happy ending, and start with the end of the second film so all three could be strung together into one film. Clever. It's interesting because the director's demeanor seems very friendly and upbeat. Just like his first appearance, it's pretty funny that he seems like such a nice guy considering his work. I guess it always works out that way though right? except Abel Ferrara.
So... while I didn't really hate this movie, I didn't really like it either. I'm not interesting in seeing it again, but you know, glad for the experience.
|09.23.11||A Boy and His Samurai||Yoshihiro Makamura||Wow it's been a long weekend. Hopefully I can remember something about these 14 films I've seen since last sitting down to write notes. What a fun weekend.|
It started with a two-hour workday (awesome) and this movie. Golden Slumber blew me away last year and I very much enjoyed Fish Story when I finally got around to watching Victor's lent DVD. Those two films made this one of my most hopeful of the fest. It's a completely different genre and not really like the previous two at all (Micah pointed out that both FS and GS were adapted from books by the same author; Samurai came from a different authro), being very family-friendly and heart-warming and romantically comedic and all. It's masterfully executed but, like most movies in this genre, tells a very familiar story.
If you've seen Kate & Leopold, you've basically seen this movie. A single mom and young child come upon an Edo period samurai transplanted from his time into modern-day Tokyo. Hilarity ensues as his formalist samurai discipline and old-world values clash with the wacky world of female bread-winners and hustle-bustling streets.
But, lest I'm sounding too negative, the movie is very well done and quite funny. The samurai takes up cooking and, through his work ethic and attention to detail, becomes an amazing pastry chef, so there's that too. It's really a great movie, just a shame the story has to be so familiar.
|09.23.11||Headhunters||Morten Tyldum||So... the short before this movie was really good to the point where I thought it was the movie itself until it ended after the first scene. It's called The Candidate and must have some connection to John Gulager since his brother's the star (along with Robert Picardo) and he has a cameo. I didn't really catch any credits, but the short's very good and could easily be the first scene of a feature.|
Anyway, the real movie is sort of a Hitchcockian thing from Sweden or Norway about a high-end recruiter/art thief who has to steal to keep is ultra-beautiful blonde model-tall wife happy because he's short and hates his genes. The slimy Jaime Lannister dude from Game of Thrones enters the picture as some rich ex-CEO and awesome cat-and-mouse action ensues.
I quite liked this film for the most part. There's a few twists and turns that are a bit predictable but nothing to major to get in the way of me going along with it. Eh, it may have been a smidge too long but I've seen a dozen movies since then and really only remember the good parts. The main dude's partner in crime is particularly funny as a balding inside-man who works at a home security company and turns the alarms off for the main guy to come in and steal art. Oh, there's also twin fat cops. What are the chances of that? And how do they pass the physical? Or do you think they used to be fit when they joined the force but then both overate? Did they become fat at the same time? So many questions... they are funny in the film though.
I'm finding as a general rule, the films that engage me the most at this fest are ones that insert humor into the tension or horror. The films that grind you down with unease or atmosphere, while they still may good, are simply not fun enough to enjoy in the context of 30 other films. I really apreciate any attempt at levity considering almost every film involves at least a quart of fake blood.
|09.23.11||Extraterrestrial||Nacho Vigalondo||Nacho's new movie. Right before the film I had my expectations drastically redefined: There are no aliens. This is a dramedy set in one apartment. Don't expect Timecrimes. It's a romantic comedy. Don't expect much. It's funny to feel prematurely disappointed in a film a half hour before you see it, but also quite effective because I think I ended up liking it more than most.|
All the things said above are technically true; the alien ship is barely used for anything more than a device to keep the characters locked up together and could easily have been a virus or zombie plague or apocalypse or anything else. It's maybe a bad title considering it gives false expectations of aliens when they really are just the background setting. However, it's still a Nacho movie and even though it's really more about characters than plot, there are a ton of intricate little turns and clever predicaments that come from the characters' actions. It's also pretty funny and while I didn't come close to tearing up like in A Boy and his Samurai (fuckin kid actors losing their father figures), it's a bit touching at the end as well. Just a bit.
Talking to Micah, I guess the short that this is based on is very similar. I can't really remember whether I'd seen it or not.
In the Q&A, Nacho let slip a few tiny details about the film he's trying to do next. It's called Windows and he wants it to take place in real time, in one continuous shot, where all of the action - and there will be big action sequences - takes place on a laptop screen. Like via youtube, instant messenger, skype, etc. He immediately followed with "I'm tired of this film already, it's going to be so hard." It's certainly an interesting idea although these limited storytelling experiments rarely work out. Even a movie like Burial with Ryan Reynolds, I believe I respected the director for pulling the premise off more than actually enjoying the film. But anyway, we'll see. I'm sure in the hands of Nacho it'll be worth watching, as this film certainly was. Just don't expect aliens.
|09.23.11||Sleep Tight||Jaume Balaguero||Two Spanish films in a row. I guess Spain is just populated with tiny perky beautiful women, huh? This one's about a doorman in an apartment building who's stalking a tenant (the aforementioned hot young girl) in an exceedingly creepy way. The movie follows him and his exploits, and eventually you get a little confused about who you are supposed to be sympathizing with (depending on whether you are a sick bastard or not). The film is expertly shot and planned and I was impressed with the graps that the director has on film language. in the Q&A he said he was very keen to use those tools again after two REC movies which rely on "amature" found-footage shooting. You can really tell with how he uses his camera and lighting. The suspense works and I was along for the ride the whole time, but my lasting memory, again just because I'm in this festival, is that it was a bit long. I'm sure I wouldn't feel that way if I saw it stand-alone and even in the middle of a full day of movies I remember liking it.|
The lead actor is really great though. His sociopathic blank stare is chilling.
|09.23.11||New Kids Turbo||Steffan Haars, Flip Van der Kuil||Last Friday movie and my first midnight. The trailer for this didn't really sell me so iw as originally going to see the remastered Zombi print but decided to change up because it felt like a safe bet to see a movie I've seen multiple times when I could be chancing some midnight goofiness like when Trailer Park Boys came to South By.|
I'm really glad I switched. New Kids Turbo, much like Netherland's answer to Trailer Park Boys, is a movie based on a show about a bunch of supreme idiots getting into some shit. It's low class, crass, violent, stupid, immature, and really indefensible but also hilarious. It feels weird to type this but it's really like a dumbed-down version of Trailer Park Boys. Think about that for a second.
So I don't know anything about Maaskantje (the neighborhood where these guys are supposed to be from), but apparently everyone there has a mullet, subsists on cheap fried food and Happy Hardcore, and says "cunt" and "homo" a lot. The stars are a group of dudes who all lose their jobs and, when they run out of government money, decide to rebel by not paying for anything anymore. I have no idea how it plays locally (although apparently they are making a sequel so it had to make some money) but in the Alamo theater on Friday night at midnight, it killed.
Unfortunately, by the end fatigue had gripped me and my blinks started to elongate. I stopped laughing at the jokes due to my twilight state but still observed their humor in a weird detached interior voice, like my brain would say "you should laugh here, it's pretty funny" but it wouldn't quite make it to my mouth. it was weird. I wasn't even totally out of it, just feeling the tired creep in sapped my laugh reserves I guess. Micah brought up a scene the next day where the stupidest character tries to clean up broken glass by sweeping it together with his forearms and now that's the only gag I can remember, but it was damn funny.
|09.24.11||El Infierno||Luis Estrada||Saturday morning! Time for a ten dollar Breakfast Club and a two and a half hour mexican drug epic! Actually, this was one of my most highly-anticipated screenings because I've been wanting a movie about the current Mexican drug war for a year or two now. Some of the shit that's happening on the border and in the cities down there is batshit insane and can be seen in headlines today, not buried in history. Hopefully we'll get some great docs or something once the war ends and the smoke clears (something akin to Cocaine Cowboys or Excellent Cadavers), but until then, this Goodfellas-mold of a brother returning to his hometown after 20 years of trying to get rich in America will definitely do.|
Although I believe this is a fictional story, the setting feels absolutely authentic. From the gaudy outfits to the solid gold pistols, this is what I'm seeing when they raid the cartel hide-outs and everything. It comes off as very funny on-screen but must be terrifying to actually live. The movie is actually really great at that: flip-flopping between humor and violence and the two never really get muddled.Just like Goodfellas, there's a fun energetic "good times" half and a pretty disastrous "bad times" downfall. The ending is also very good, delivering a message that feels 100% true without seeming forced or heavy-handed. It still comes from the story. The director said the movie sprang from the last shot of the film so it was never a question whether it would be in or out.
A really great film. It might turn out to be one of my favorites of the festival, although everyone's been so quick to say that and, to be honest, I've really only seen a couple films so far that I haven't liked. Let's hope the rest of the fest goes this well.
|09.24.11||We Need to Talk About Kevin||Lynne Ramsay||A movie about a woman who's dealing with the repercussions of her son's actions. This one will have to be very spoiler heavy because the story is so minimal that what it's about is kind of a spoiler in itself. So if you want to see it fresh, the takeway of this note is I thought it was "meh" ok.|
So... still here? cool. Tilda Swinton plays the mom and John C. Reilly plays the dad. Some kid plays the kids, and they did a great job of finding a kid and a teen that look similar enough to be the same character while also both being able to act. The kid winds up doing a school shooting thing and Tilda Swinton is left afterward to live with the guilt, shame, and animosity of the town afterward. So the movie's kind of framed with the story of her after the school shooting, having paint thrown at her house, getting punched in the face on the street, feeling mopey. Then there are constant flashbacks which tell the story of her entire relationship with Reilly and the raising of their child.
I'm not really a fan of this type of structure since on the one hand it seems like enveilling that the kid does a school shooting is like the climax of the film, but it's the one thing I knew about the film going into it because it's the ONLY WAY TO SELL PEOPLE ON THE MOVIE.
Dude A: "I saw this movie with Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly the other day. It was kind of interesting"
Dude B: "Oh yeah? What's it about?"
So are they asking me to be surprised by the school shooting or expecting me to know coming in or pick it up in the first five minutes (which isn't hard to do) and have to sit through the whole movie until we finally get around to it. Kind of confused by that. Either way it's not great.
Also, these fleeting glimpses... I guess if you're Wong Kar Wai you can do it but I'm not a huge fan. To me, you have to repeat not because you're being poetic but because you don't have a story (or the story you do have is not that interesting).
the thing I really thought was interesting (aside from the performances), was how the movie shifted from judging the mom for not raising her kid better to realizing that the kid is just an evil devil child that should be drowned in a lake and it's really not Swinton's fault. I thought that was an interesting turn and I started liking the movie much more at that point because the kid's SUCH a dick. Still, there's a lot to sit through to get to the gems like him intentionally shitting himself so she'd have to clean him, or him not stopping and just looking at her when she accidentally walks in on him masturbating.
Evil children; fuck em.
|09.24.11||Comin' at Ya!||Ferdinando Baldi||After the drama slog that was We Need to Talk About Kevin, Comin At Ya's goofy fun 3D hijinks was exactly what I needed. I'm not sure if I've seen any Tony Anthony movies other than Get Mean, but I remember that as not being great. That said, I was pretty excited to see this for the remastered 3D experience of the early 80s. My first Alamo experience was Friday the 13th 3 in 3D at the original 4th street location. I had a real blast that night and that movie's filled with cheap gags that I associated with 3D up to that point. I just wanted to feel that again, really.|
So... ok the movie's not great. BUT. The 3D is some of the best I've ever seen. Really. They had stuff coming out so far that I had to refocus my eyes between the foreground and the background. And a few times (like when they dropped coins or corn or rocks or whatever onto the camera) I had a bit of a visceral reaction. Actually, during the scene where the indian throws spears and shoot flaming arrows, I reflexively flinched several times. It was crazy. It felt like it was shooting straight into my face. I haven't felt that with Avatar or any of the digital 3D stuff. Forget about the actual movie, the 3D was tons of fun.
The Q&A afterward was also pretty hilarious. The interplay between Tony Anthony (who came off speaking more as a producer or businessman than an actor) and 3d technician Tom Stern was great. Also, Anthony's jag on the secret of how TV works and how we can see a snowflake that falls in the east (answer: it's your brain. The Limbric system is like the Geiger County of your brain) was bizarre and made no sense. To add on top of it, Lars tried to ask a valid question of why this film had things coming out of the screen versus so many just increase the depth of field inside the screen and you could tell that they knew the answer but never ever explained it in an understandable way. It wasn't the most informative Q&A but really gave a window into their personality and was supremely entertaining.
|09.24.11||The Day||Douglas Aariniokoski||So... I realized I had a hole in my schedule and this was the only show that I hadn't seen already or wasn't planning to see later. Plus, I love post-apocalyptic so why not, right?|
It's the story of a group of people trying to survive in the wasteland. it follows them for 24 hours, during which time there's trouble.
Umm... this was just ok. It was too long and slow for me, but the action was decent when they had it. Shannon Sossamon got naked and the other girl really kicked some ass. Lot's of talking though. And some arguments just seem to go nowhere and flame out, ultimately seeming like a waste of time. Eh, I dunno... Next!
|09.24.11||You're Next||Adam Wingard||The second screening of this was cancelled due to it getting picked up so this was kind of crazy to get into. They're really cracking down this year on taking boarding passes and checking them against badges and the online ticketting is better but still very arbitrary and kind of changing all the time. Anyway, this is a straight-up horror about a family reunion spoiled by paramilitary types wearing animal masks. There was some humor which I appreciated and a girl kicks ass, but largely it felt like a follow-the-formula flick to me. AJ Bowen pulled his role off though and his end monologue was great (he was also hilarious in the Q&A). Actually all the performances were strong. I liked how, for whatever reason, half the cast were also directors. Guess they're all friends. Anyway, there's some good death gags, snappy editing, blah blah blah. it's a good movie, just no... transcendance, if that makes any sense.|
|09.25.11||The Yellow Sea||Nong-jim Na||I can feel these notes getting shorter as I burn through them. Sorry. I'm trying to get caught up and not have a week's worth waiting for me at the end. OK, Sunday morning. Another two and a half hour movie, this time a Korean action movie about some weird border area between China and Korea. A guy in debt agrees to travel to Seoul to kill someone in order to erase his debts. Complications occur.|
So, after the first hour or so, the movie really picks up with pretty constant car chases and knife fights. If someone's not getting stabbed or chopped, they're running or driving after someone. It's all done very well, with an amazing amount of knife violence. I'm actually not sure I've seen more knife violence in a single movie. It gets overwhelming and exhausting by the end, which completely works because the protagonist is as well. The problem is, I was so wrung out that I'm not sure I understand the ending. Spoiler zone for my probably-wrong deductions:
so... he was gonna kill the agent who hired the third band of assassins (the ones who crashed into him in the garage but then the one guy fell and died while swinging the shovel) when he saw his wife and figured out that his wife was the one who wanted him dead? no? I don't know...
Anyway, a mostly-awesome action movie; another solid effort from Korea.
|09.25.11||The Skin I Live In||Pedro Almodovar||This year's first secret screening! Literally the only rumor I'd heard was that Scott Weinberg was introducing it so it was probably a horror movie, but then Michael Lehrman gets up and tells us it's Almodovar's new one which is a return to his genre roots. Kudos to the festival for keeping everyone in the dark!|
I was initially kind of disappointed with the announcement, since I haven't really been keeping up with his movies. I thought they were all about women talking to each other and probably crying. This one is about... not that. There will have to be spoilers in these notes so stop reading now if you don't want them. The takeaway is that it's well-made and either ridiculous or cool depending on if you go with it or not.
So... It's a revenge movie because this kid sort of half-rapes Antonio Banderas' mental daughter, who later dies. So to get back, he kidnaps the kid and turns her into a woman that looks like his late wife. He then falls in love with the man/wife and tries to have sex in it's fake vagina.
This movie was really confusing for me because the actress that plays the female version of the kid is SO GODDAMN HOT. and she's either naked or in a flesh-colored body stocking for like all of the movie. So she's super hot, but then I'm supposed to think of her as this kid who's been transformed, but she's SO HOT... ugh. It's hard to think about.
As far as revenge plots go, it's a stretch. I really don't know why that would be the plan he ends up going with. I guess so he can do his weird skin experiments or something. But whatever, great twisted story that really fits the festival (a plus considering some secret screening are chosen more by what they can get their hands on than what thematically fits). I had a good time with it although I probably wouldn't have seen it on my own.
|09.25.11||Take Shelter||Jeff Nichols||Michael Shannon plays an ohio husband and father to a deaf daughter who starts having nightmares of a coming apocalyptic storm. Heavy Last Wave influence here except it focuses more on whether or not he's going crazy than weird Gulpilil sightings.|
This is another slow burn movie which usually doesn't work for me in this context, however the power emanating from the performances, the vivid strength of the nightmare scenes (really reminded me of Jacob's Ladder in a way (more toned down that that) that they start subtly yet grow to frightening surreal images), and the slow blossom of the score all work seamlessly together to create this contemplative view of the end of the world. The "is he crazy" question is never 100% answered, but the last scene is haunting in its simplicity. It's also a wonderful turn that the climax that builds in a storm shelter gives you a resolution, but then the film keeps going.
Man, Michael Shannon... Is there anyone better at quiet menace? He shows some gentleness with his daughter but so easily broadcasts the mounting anxiety of self-doubt coupled with forboding knowledge that his character bears. The Lyon's club dinner is a perfect explosion of performance for him. "YOU THINK I'M CRAZY!? THERE'S A STORM COMING!!!" so crazy in that moment...
And I should say it's perfectly counterbalanced by Jessica Chastain. You read her love on her face as she's forced to deal with all this stuff. So great.
So... yeah, this is really good.
|09.25.11||Dreadnaught||Woo-ping Yuen||The first Hong Kong feature. I guess the reason why they don't announce the titles is because the American Genre Film Archive (or whatever Justin and Tim are calling their print library) just got a major load of Hong Kong films and may not... well, whatever. They're awesome surprises.|
The first one is Dreadnaught, an early Yuen Woo-ping kung-fu flick starring a very old.. I don't know his name. I've seen him a lot though and he's awesome.
So... this is still a kung-fu film. Too long, too plodding, and eventually the fight scenes bore me as much as the lame story. That said, there are moments in this film that are downright awesome:
-The dragon fight scene. There are two teams of dudes who have these Chinese dragons. they do super complicated dances with them, two guys controlling their dragon costume to mimic animal behavior while balancing precariously or showing incredible feats of strenght, then collide in a fight between the two dragons. As they try to nip and tear at eachothers' costumes, the dudes underneath are also fighting. It's this bizarre mix of fight choreography (which is really a sort of dancing in itself), actual dancing, and animal puppetry that is pretty mindblowing.
-I like how a lot of the fight scenes, especially involving the old guy who I can't remember, revolve around non-fight subject matter. There's two scenes, one where he's trying to heal an angry fighter and another where a tailor is trying to assassinate him, that are expertly choreographed and performed but also clever and out of the ordinary.
-the main bad guy pulls the head off a chicken for no reason. I'm not really a fan of animal cruelty but this was SO arbitrary that I had to laugh. Plus you don't actually see him pull the head off, it just cuts to him holding the head in one hand and the body in the other.
So.. I guess the next two titles will be total sleaze grindhouse fare, then Wednesday's movie will be a big action movie that I may have heard of but guaranteed to never have seen in a theater. Although I got kind of drowsy during the slower bits of this, I'll be at the rest.
|09.26.11||Knuckle||Ian Palmer||Day... 4? Monday. Back to work. Nothing better after a full weekend of fantastic fest than sitting in an hour-long training about the merits of records management. I could not care less about the information security violations that my sticky notes present.|
Anyway, back at the theater, I saw this doc about a decades-long rivalry between Traveler clans in England and Ireland where disputes are settled in the form of fair fight bare-knuckle brawls. The doc itself is made up of ten years of footage. The first thing you probably think when I say that is "wow, ten years! there must be tons of great footage there!" and I did too but what I didn't think about was the video technology available ten years ago. A lot of this movie is pretty poor quality, recorded with VHS cameras and whatnot. Of course the quality gets better as the years pass, but it's still a little jarring compared to the beauty of a lot of the films here this week.
That aside, the story is pretty interesting. It's a lot like a whole documentary dedicated to Brad Pitt's character from Snatch, right down to the whole family sitting on one couch for interviews and everybody stuffed into caravans and whatnot. It's pretty fascinating stuff to see these inflammatory youtube-esque videos get passed around between clans inciting fights and the age of one dude in particular as he has his first fight and ten years later when he challenges the same guy to regain his respect. That guy and the housing area where they live showed the most effects of time. I thought it was really cool to see this housing complex brand new when they move in and then see it ten years later when it's all sprayed with graffiti and one house has been abandoned to rot. I really don't know anything about this culture but I'm guessing they're kind of like gypsies... I kind of wish the doc explained the whole culture a bit more but the glimpse that we got was enough to make an entertaining film. It just could've been more I suppose.
|09.26.11||Clown: The Movie||Mikkel Norgaard||Holy shit this movie is funny. As of now, it's my favorite of the festival. I don't even really know what to say. It's just hilarious and so competantly made. The characters are endearing, the situations feel natural and earned. Nothing's forced. The performances are stellar. The writing's smart and raunchy and in some ways represent reality but in others show this strange near-alternate universe much like Curb Your Enthusiasm where all the pieces fit together. gush gush gush gush gush. So funny.|
The ending had me light-headed with laughter. It's really amazing. I want to track down the tv show in which this is based now and see everything I can find. I am completely in love with this movie.
The director and producer had some really inciteful comments during the Q&A for us ignorant Americans. One thing he said was that the guy who played Casper is really famous in Denmark. I found that interesting because he has a clear charisma on screen where even in the first scene where he's just part of a group and I had no idea he would be one of the stars of the film, I felt magentized toward him and wished he would show up more as the film went on. he looks like a Danish version of Kenneth Branagh in hipster costumes but has the type of vibe like Vince Vaughn in Swingers. Tour de Pussy, Frank! Tour de Pussy! Pussy beats fatherhood! Hilarious.
Ahh... this was good.
|09.26.11||A Day Without Policeman||Gwing-Kail Lee||The second Movies on Fire title was promised to be a sleazy grindhouse oddity. Grady Hendrix's presentation style is really strange. He yells out everything and wears pink suits like a kind of clown, but he also sounds like he really really knows what he's talking about and throws all these Hong Kong names out like they're Clark Gable and Tom Hanks but I've never heard of any of them. So I was pretty lost during the intro (not a bad thing! It was very informative but I was overloaded with information) then this movie came on and I was completely lost for the whole thing. It gave me my most vivid "grindhouse" experience to date.|
So, as far as I can tell, this movie is about a cop who is yielded impotent when he's involved in a shootout with chinese criminals with AK47s. The power of the automatic rifle really gets into his head and messes him up, so his girlfriend gets upset with him and may or may not have broken up with him. Then there's her sister who is either an undercover cop or a weird kid version of a mall punk. Then there's this chinese fisherman and his wife gets raped and killed by a gang of teenagers, and these chinese criminals... I guess because of national pride... help the fisherman get revenge by killing an entire village of.. Hong Kong-ers? And because he's now incapable of getting it up, the cop is a complete coward who does nothing for the entire movie, until the end when he finally shoots a gun and kills the chinese criminals, but then one of them comes back to life just long enough to hit him on the head with a rock and he dies.
Makes perfect sense, right? So drench all of that in bad Lethal Weapon electric guitar riffs and the worst subtitles I've had the pleasure of reading and yous tart to get an idea of my experience. Seriously, the subtitles alone would present a logic puzzle to pause and figure out what people are saying.
So.. I'm sitting there in the theater, taking in the images and random words as they flash in front of my face, thinking "what am I doing here? This movie makes no sense, is complete shit, They wouldn't even show this on cable in the middle of the night, I have no idea what's going on, I don't really care about anything, I can't believe someone made this, I can't believe someone released this, I can't believe this even exists, it's a complete disaster or miracle that this movie even got made, what am I doing here?" and then I thought "where else would I rather be?" and it hit me that this is grindhouse. There's no urine smell or nodding out junkies or prostitutes keeping warm or gang members waiting to mug me in the restroom, but this is the movie; this is it. This is 4am on a Tuesday when you have nothing to do and nowhere to go and you'd rather sit in a theater than stand on the street. This is having a 24/7 movie house and knowing that nobody cares about what's on screen but needing to show SOMETHING just to feed the projector. This is going to the drive-in on Saturday night and killing a sixer with your buds. This is watching Cinemax on Friday night not caring anything about the film other than seeing tits. This is everything distilled into one incomprehensible mess now flickering away in front of my eyes. I felt it.
|09.27.11||Carre Blanc||Jean-Baptiste Leonetti||Day Whatever of Fantastic Fest, Tuesday. I kind of thought today would be the day that everyone stays home for some reason. I guess maybe a few did but I was surprise by how many people, albeit tired and staggering, there are still going. A lot of people are looking and sounding hung over. Perfect time for a bleak French sci-fi!|
Todd Brown said this was in his top 3 of the year, and he sees "300-400" films a year. Since I don't really know Todd at all, that made me more curious of his taste in movies than the quality of this one. Especially now that I've seen it.
The story is... I guess a kid grows up in a weird sci-fi society and his wife is unhappy so he quits his job in order to make her happy. Sort of. This would've made a great short I guess, but for the amount of story present, the film felt like mostly atmospheric filler to me. The appeal of the world was enough for a while, but so many faux-Malick shots or nothing in particular happening quickly tired me out. Jarrette and I passed a note back and forth throughout the first half of the movie that went like this:
"I miss dialogue"
"I miss dialogue that pertains to the plot"
"I miss plot"
That pretty much sums it up for me. I really hope that if the world becomes some dystopian sci-fi future, everything doesn't slow down and people don't stop talking and spend most of their time staring contemplatively. It seems like a boring world to live in.
|09.27.11||Boys on the Run||Daisuke Miura||A sex comedy about a poor schlubby guy who's too horny and screws up a relationship with his dream girl, then vies for some form of redemption and justice when she screws his friend and gets pregnant. This has been billed as a romantic comedy with all the parts that are usually cut out left in, or a "feel-bad" comedy. It's true that most of the movie is a relentless pity party for the main guy, who just can't get things to go his way.|
I liked this, although my Western conventional nature shined through at the end. I'll have to delve into spoilers to explain so stop reading if you care. The takeaway is that I liked it but it was one of those scenarios where i pictured a better ending in my head and was disappointed with what they gave me.
So... when he decides to fight his friend who preggered up his dream girl then dumped her, he goes on this boxing training quest with an old alkie co-worker. He really finds some confidence, cuts his hair into a mohawk, and even knocks someone out on his way to the fight. But then during the fight he doesn't land a single blow and his only offense is peeing on the friend while he was pinned down. Then he cries. Then he sees his dream girl at the train station right before she leaves town and grovels for her to sleep with him. She agrees but it's a trap and that's not what she wants and, still crying, he pushes her onto the train and leaves. Someone comes up to him and asks if he's ok and he smiles and gives a thumb's up.
OK, so it's a decent enough ending and technically on paper it seems he got some sort of redemption, but on screen it was nowhere near rewarding enough for me. I wanted him to finally yell at her and tell her she's stupid and a slut for sleeping with everyone BUT the guy who cares about her. I wanted him to stand tall in front of her rather than cry and grovel, even if it was a "trap" of sorts. But mostly, I wanted the old alkie mentor to get up after the main guy lost the fight, cooly decide that this guy was a good guy and deserved some satisfaction, and walk back up to the friend's office and kick the ever-loving shit out of that guy. He's such a slime-ball for the WHOLE movie and never gets any come-uppance. I know this movie is trying to put conventions on their ear and all that, and you're supposed to really be rooting for the main guy during the fight and be heart-broken when he loses... but COME ON! I just wanted it so much... and it could've easily happened. I guess the point is that the friend does get away clean, but still. I hated that.
So anyway, I liked it even though it made me angry.
|09.27.11||Smuggler||Katsuhito Ishii||Sort of more restrained crime story from Funky Forest director. I'm not really a huge fan of Japanese Weird films, but thought this one might be constructed well enough to be enjoyable, which it was for the most part. These two assassins, named Vertebrae and Viscera, are sort of the main attractions even though the main characters are a kid and a hardened verteran/driver in charege of smuggling illicit cargo (like bodies). Vertebrae's pretty badass, using nunchucks to shatter people's heads in super slow motion. Viscera is also capable I guess but only really fights once and it doesn't effectively show his skill so who knows.|
I think this movie is a victim to festival fatigue. It's technically good and I enjoyed myself well enough, but wasn't blown away and found nothing exceptionally special about it so therefore I'm already forgetting everything about it. Sorry, Smuggler!
|09.27.11||The Eternal Evil of Asia||Man Kei Chin||Third Movies on Fire title, this one a sleazy horror movie involving weird voodoo enchantments. Grady's intros get more and more informative. Tonight he told us about the rpactice of midnight movies, where filmmakers would show their films on Thursday nights just before release, and drive an editor around from screening to screening to see what didn't work. It was too late to master another print but the editor would physically cut out scenes that were deemed too boring by the rowdy midnight crowds and that contributed to the Hong Kong craziness we see now. Grady called them the "crystal meth of movies" and "black holes of films" and I found both descriptions to be apt.|
So the movie... It's about a group of guys that visit Thailand and wind up accidentally killing a witch dude's horny sister. For revenge, he comes to Hong Kong and fucks with them with different curses and hexes until most are dead. I kind of forget the ending because I was zoning out and trying to stay awake. So... at one point the witch dude turns a guy into a literal dickhead (a phallic prosthetic put over the guys head, leaving only his face) and when he's scared he squirts piss out of the top of his head. Also, he fights a couple of witches (as in the evil witches are a couple) that spawn an evil placenta that encases him and tries to turn him into a baby and melt him into water and blood. Then they perform a flying spinning attack while in 69 position then start raining down explosions as fly around in doggy position. It's kind of a crazy battle.
Despite my grogginess, I was firmly aware that this was still more cohesive than last night's film, and a truly bizarre oddity that I was very grateful to see. What a crazy crazy movie.
Also, before the movie there were trailers, most without english subs. The one that got huge laughs however was a film titled "Raped by an Angel 3 Sexual Fantasy of the Chief Executive." Classic stuff.
So... I'm officially tired. Two days left including a weekday midnight that I'm somehow going to do. I pity my co-workers Thursday morning, and frequently look to my "OOTO ALL DAY" appointment on my Outlook calendar for strength to get me through. Fantastic Fest, you are winning... but I will survive you!
|09.28.11||The Devil's Business||Sean Hogan||Day next-to-last at Fantastic Fest, Wednesday. I had to miss American Werewolf in order to make up work hours, then nothing in this slot really thrilled me so I went into this kind of expecting to be a little bored.|
This is the story of two hit men who try to kill a dude but the dude's messed up in devil magic and pulls some shit. It's clearly on a minimal budget and there's several very long dialogue scenes that are pulled off proficiently by the actors but still end up being too long so I stopped paying attention. At least it was a short movie.
I think if I made this and I knew how little money I had or if it was my first feature, I'd be proud of getting it done, but it's still not like a "real" movie. I probably should've seen Rabies instead. Oh well.
|09.28.11||Love||William Eubank||Can you tell I'm fuck-off tired? these notes will probably be very short today. Goddamn work.|
Anyway, this is the Angels and Airwaves movie. I didn't know anything about the band or the movie but Victor was pretty excited and the trailer looked just as pretty as Livid so I saw this. I expected it to be all the words that every band throws out when they make a movie: meditative, contemplative, cerebral, raw emotion, etc. and got pretty much exactly what I expected. I will say that I thought certain moments would break into flat-out music video segments which it did not; this is more film than music video and even has a loose story. I kind of had some long blinks toward the end and those moments of disconnect made the vague story even more confusing to me, but whatever... it's all about tone, right?
I will say that the movie looked great. They said they made it for half a mil which is pretty nuts considering how good it looks. I also liked that Tim brought up Richard Garriot to conduct the Q&A afterward and his little anecdotes about actually being in the real International Space Station were like a thousand percent more interesting than Tom DeLonge talking about his band (to me at least, there was a whole front row full of kids who probably thought the exact opposite).
|09.28.11||Paranormal Activity 3||Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman||So.. after the last movie which was incredible (i'll just leave ***this*** here), I stayed for the midnight secret screening because a) I love torturing morning-at-work me, and b) How can I not go to a secret screening, even if it's a movie I don't care about at all? This may very well be my last secret screening if I don't get a VIP badge next year, so what the hell... it's worth being (extra) tired Thursday morning.|
It's kind of funny. I hadn't heard jack about the first screening being Almodovar but it seems like there was all but an official announcement that tonight would be Paranormal Activity 3.
So... let's see. I didn't see the second one. I guess I'll have to now in order to bridge the gap, although I don't think I missed much since this was a prequel. Spoiler-free, I sort of object to any sequels to this movie because the format only really works once so watching it again just becomes more and more ridiculous. That said, there were a few good gags and the ending was satisfying. I ended up liking it ok.
So... the beginning is pretty awesomely arbitrary. They find these tapes out of nowhere and like somehow just decide to go through them or something. There's no explanation for why or how they're edited (they pull the fast-forward thing and they number the nights just like the first one), it just is. So that's one. Then, since this one takes place in 1988, it's all supposedly VHS footage, but the night scenes are super clear and illuminated. I don't know what kind of crazy full moon happened for that whole month or whatever but my personal experiences as a kid trying to tape anything at night ended up with grainy black and jack shit else. So that's two. Then there's the classic white person problem of, once the spirit makes unequivocal its-on-video proof of his existence, the family doesn't do crap about it. There's an argument where the mom like refuses to listen to her husband when he tries to tell her what's going on that seemed completely wrong to me. Just watch the video, lady! It's the Mist problem all over again. There's no need to argue, just shut up and see the physical evidence readily available! So that's three. Then there's the fact that the whole movie is basically the same exact formula of the first film. It felt like watching a bizarro-version of the first movie that made less sense.
But you know... scares are still scares just like laughs are still laughs. It's hard to argue with the ladies at the end or the Bloody Mary and ghost sheet scenes. I do resent the amount of cheap loud noise stabs in the beginning but whatever.
So there you have it. Only one more day left. Three more movies. Then a glorious day off. I can't wait.
|09.29.11||Blind||Sant-hoon Ahn||Last day at Fantastic Fest, Thursday. The Loved Ones got picked up I guess because they pulled both shows and had to slightly re-arrange the prom. So I was stuck with a bit of a tough decision. I really only opted for this because it's Korean.|
A girl has an accident and goes blind, then becomes a witness to a crime and the criminal starts hunting her. On the surface, it's pretty much a Korean remake of Wait Until Dark, but it's competantly made and I was never really bored. They kill a dog though and that made everyone sad. They didn't actually kill the dog. It made me wonder why people can kill people left and right in movies and we never feel as sad as if someone kills a dog. Is it because we believe it more because dogs can't really act?
Anyway, this one was decent, ended up being better than I thought it would, but still wasn't anything special.
|09.29.11||Help, We're in the Film Industry!||Nini Bull Robsahm, Patrik Syversen||This was in the program manual as "You Said What!" but I much prefer the direct translation of the title. I originally avoided this because the blurb said it was a remake of Miike's Audition. Everyone said it was funny though so I was happy to find time in the schedule for it. In fact it does involve Audition but not as a remake. Rather, the main characters a big film nerds and take a literal inspiraction from Audition to find a new girl for their buddy. The main guy actually meets someone he likes though and more or less commits to make a movie just so he can spend time with her. They actually get some financing but immediately blow it with a huge party. Alcoholocaust! Alcoholocaust! Alcoholocaust!|
Peter Stormare's also in it as himself and he's pretty hilarious. Stormare! Stormpower!
It was pretty funny. It's a bit of a shame because it reminded me of Clown but Clown was funnier. This was still very good though. It's funny how most of my favorite films of the fest are in light-hearted non-horror films. Weird, huh?
|09.29.11||Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan's Hope||Morgan Spurlock||Closing Night film! Spurlock wasn't here for it but Harry had the producer and several of the main subjects in attendance. There was a shitload of reserved seats... I guess when you're in full Mass Effect cosplay it's hard to stuff into just one seat.|
Anyway, the movie was ok. It's exactly what you think a comic-con doc would be. Eccentric people and costumes. People running for toys, lining up for Kevin Smith panels, and buying comics. Throw in celebrity interviews and you have a doc I guess. There were funny moments but nothing too memorable. Everybody's favorite line seemed to be from this old comic seller from Denver when he said "A woman telling you to grow up is God's sign to look for a new woman." They couldn't have seeded a better audience for this movie, except maybe in comic-con itself. It went over well here but I can totally see it showing on Starz or Encore or something.
So that's that. final film! Afterward, a bunch of us went over to the carnival/closing night film which, while just being a few minutes away, was surprisingly large I thought. They had a stage setup with a DJ, several adult-size bouncy attractions (like a velcro wall and bouncy castles and shit), free Shiner and Tequila punch, and a buffet of fair-like cholesterol food including fried bacon, fried butter, and a queso fountain. Inside were several empty rooms and an upstairs devoted to Karaoke. I missed the remote location and room to move around from last year, but after a while got used to it and enjoyed a pretty decent DJ set. Some guy had taken up residence in a small inflatable pool and looked a fool dancing alone. They brought in performers dressed up in superhero costumes to juggle or dance with their weird light sticks or walk around talking to people in character and stuff. Actually, a surprising amount of people dressed up, including a guy with a taco costume. He walked in a room we were in at one point and yelled "hey! Taco cat is a palindrome! fuck off!" and left. that was randomly hilarious.
It was good to let loose a little bit before having to say goodbye to everyone. The winnders of the new lottery system for next year's VIP badges were announced this morning so I was a bit bummed that neither me nor most of my friends got in. So this could very well be my last Fantastic Fest event, which is crap. So I acted stupid for a while and enjoyed the music and company before heading home absolutely exhausted out of my mind.
Once again, Fantastic Fest proved to be a fun time despite the break from reality and mad dash of working mornings. I do hope I get a badge for next year but it seems like more than a few die-hard regulars might get shut out. I hope that isn't the case though... this has been a really fun week.
so let's see... favorites?
2. El Infierno
3. A Boy and his Samurai
4. Take Shelter
5. New Kids Turbo