|FantasticFest 2012 (09.20.12 - 09.27.12, 30 movies)|
|09.20.12||Frankenweenie||Tim Burton||Behold! The 8th Annual Fantastic Fest! And thanks to Micah getting a pass for himself which made him able to offer the extra pass of one Mr. Brian Kelley (one of the many in the local Brian Brotherhood), I get to go! I really thought that last year was it when I didn't get a badge but it looks like I'm good to go for one more year. It even says I'm press! (hah!) Hilarious considering this is probably going out to 3 inactive bloglines accounts.|
So I'm working half days again this year. Skipping the midnights doesn't seem to bother me and I'm way less exhausted (and have also noticed higher immune system responses) when I come home and get to bed by midnight rather than 3 or 4 am. So aside from all the crazy late-night stuff I plan to see a pretty full slate of films this year. The level of detail in these notes is entirely dependant upon if I have any actual work to do in the mornings. Speaking of that, I need to get to bed so let's get to it.
This is a feature-length re-telling of Burton's original short except this time it's stop-motion animated instead of live-action and it's padded out by more subplots and characters. It felt a lot like listening to a best-of album to me. Really EVERY familiar Tim Burton-ism is present so it's kind of ticking off the list as you watch. I think Winona Ryder's character looks and sounds and even shares lines with her Beatlejuice character. Burton throws as many homages to the classic Universal monsters in as he can. It works as a clever little movie but I feel like it lacks the soul of a really Classic Album.
You can listen to the Best of Led Zeppelin and get all the hits but I like listening to the full albums more because you hear the hits in the context of the supporting songs and get a much stronger sense of personality and thrust to it. This one kinda felt like Tim Burton was just having fun and staying safe. I'm not a huge fan of his later work so it surprised me that I liked this at all, and I did like it. I don't want to sound too negative. I thought it was cute and effective and a nice little thing to watch. Just really expected and kind of empty.
|09.20.12||Dredd 3D||Pete Travis||My second movie was this. Karl Urban and Alex Garland and Olivia Thrilby were there. It was better than I thought it would be. They use slow-motion to really nice effect a few times, and it was cool to see actors from HBO shows I like (Cersei from Game of Thrones and muthafuckin Avon Barksdale from The Wire) but they both acted like... they were mutes or something. Odd choices, especially for Lena Heady who spends a lot of time just staring off in the distance and trying to look menacing. Wood Harris is better but was still a prop for like half the movie. The real stars are Urban and Thrilby. They kick some ass here and it's nice. I never really read the comic when I was a kid but I did have a poster on my wall of Dredd beating some punks up done by Simon Bosley that I liked very much. This movie captured the vibe of that poster very well. Brutal violence, no sentimentality, bad ass.|
I liked it more than I thought I would and more than Frankenweenie but still not a LOVE I don't think. It was good though no doubt.
|09.21.12||Pusher||Luis Prieto||So I guess there was a ticketting snafu and I ended up in a press screening of this rather than an official thing. oh well! It worked out really well for me because it wasn't full after I busted ass from the Ritz to South Lamar and had to end up parking in the neighborhood streets because the parking lot was already full.|
The movie wasn't that great though. I didn't see the original but this one was overly stylized and I had some major problems with the plot, mostly that the guy we're supposed to be rooting for is a dick who got himself in the mess that he's desperately trying to get out of. Had a hard time caring for anyone, even though I guess it was technically competant. Pretty meh.
|09.21.12||The Conspiracy||Christopher MacBride||Aaaaand now it's a week later, the whole festival is over, and I'm back at work writing these notes during downtime. Hey, it happens sometimes. I had actual work during the fest so I didn't have any morning time to write these. Consequently I've probably forgotten 90% of the details I would've written here... ahhh well. Maybe I'll have more of a mature insight into my feelings on these films rather than... the initial thoughts... that this whole journal is supposed to capture. shit.|
Anyway, this is a mockumentary about a couple filmmakers who find a subject in this crazy conspiracy theory nutjob old man. In the course of interviewing him and fueled by his sudden disappearance (spoiler!), their curiosities are piqued to the point of picking up the fight and exploring the dark world of conspiracies themselves.
Several things here. I really liked the obvious research that went into the actual conspiracies portrayed here. I find that stuff is always best when there's kernels of truth sprinkled in to make your brain say "it's crazy but what if!?" and the filmmakers (real not in the movie) do a great job of presenting what's so fascinating about a ton of different things. Also, having sat through Alex Jones' infiltration of Bohemian Grove, the whole last sequence was impressively accurate.
I also really liked the ending and how it made use of the mockumentary format in a way I hadn't seen before. It makes you question the reliability of the narrator (although it also raises some questions about why certain footage would even be left in the movie if the agenda hinted at in the ending was really the case) which is a cool touch for a format that plenty of people hate these days.
All in all, I thought it was decent and as the fest went on I liked it more and more in my memory.
|09.21.12||Miami Connection||Woo-sang Park||Crazy 80s Floridian Kung-Fu fun as unearthed and celebrated by the Alamo. I think if Zack Carlson were able to take a Total Recall vacation in his brain this would be the world he'd want to visit. It's full of non-actor acting, strangely friendship-based rock songs, Floridian corrupt ninjas, and cocaine. They also had the whole crew here and they sang their two songs and they released a 7" of Dragon Sound's complete discography. It was a true Alamo gala event, caring SO much for something that pretty much everyone else wouldn't care anything at all about.|
The movie's real fun. It fits nicely into "Crazy 80s wackiness" territory. Lots of fun. The movie is made up of these really rough scenes where all these non-actors try to act natural and it comes off super weird and awkward. At least the dudes seemed to have a good sense of humor about the whole theater cracking up at their bad acting. I think it helps that the whole crowd had a sympathetic view toward these guys. It's hard to explain to people who haven't been to a Weird Wednesday before how the Alamo's appreciation for these kinds of films (read: bad movies) is not in a so-bad-it's-good way but more of a celebrating naivete kind of vibe. We got genuine amusement out of this terrible movie, but in a somehow more respectful way. At least that's how I think of it. I also think that a lot of this kind of reaction comes from the glut of mediocre crap that Hollywood makes. In some way, an outstanding bad movie is just as special as an outstanding good one in that it's pretty rare. There's also a difference between entertaining bad and dull bad. See? It's confusing! All I know is that I had a great time with this movie and will probably pick it up when Drafthouse Films releases it. I'm not sure how it'll play outside of Austin though.
|09.21.12||New Kids Nitro||Steffen Haars, Flip Van der Kuil||One of my few allowed midnights: the sequel to last year's hilarious New Kids Turbo. I still recall the scene where one guy tries to pick up shard of broken glass by using his forearms to sweep them into a pile (eviscerating his flesh in the process) as one of the funniest most absurd random things I've seen in the past few years. Micah had a good point in that these guys were very similar to the Trailer Park Boys in that they're fun to just hang out with, even if the actual movie isn't as good as the previous one. So I enjoyed myself although I do have fonder memories of last year. The plot of this one involves zombies which I'm pretty sick of at the moment and a lot of the new and random (to me) humor didn't last during a second exposure.|
|09.22.12||Cold Steel||David Wu||A perfectly competant action film by longtime John Woo-collaborator David Wu. It's WW2-era China and we follow a sharpshooter as he goes on missions and, because it's a movie, falls in love. I remember liking this while watching it but a week later I find that I'm already kind of forgetting about it. Not bad really but also not really stand-out great. Kind of like Let The Bullets Fly from last year for me.|
|09.22.12||Berberian Sound Studio||Peter Strickland||I had really high hopes for this one. Toby Jones plays a british sound engineer called into an Italian post-production studio to work on a Giallo. I really loved the first half of this movie. It's filled with eccentric Italian film industry characters, dark humor involving foley recording and screaming ADR, and a metric ton of procedural goodies involved with working on a soundtrack for an Italian horror movie. They even do a thing where you never see the projectionist except for his black leather-clad gloved hands.|
So at first I thought they'd do that thing where the movie about a Giallo becomes a Giallo as the projectionist starts killing off the crew and eventually it'll be up to diminutive quiet Toby Jones to save the day. Well, the movie doesn't go in that direction at all. At first I was glad because it seemed so expected, but as the final act grinded on and on I found myself wishing for a convenient little narrative. Instead, it gave me an unravelling sequence where reality distorted and Toby Jones found himself in weirder and weirder situations culminating in the movie sort of starting over with Jones as a native Italian watching himself on-screen, except then it kept going and getting slower and more inpenetrably obtuse to the point where I have no idea what the fuck I was watching.
I think this is my biggest disappointment of the fest because i was SO in love with the first half and they just ruined everything to the point where I walked out at the end thinking it really really sucked. It's a huge shame.
|09.22.12||Plan C||Max Porcelijn||This was described in the program book as "Coen-esque." It's about a somewhat dirty cop who all of a sudden owes ten grand to his bookie and gets increasingly desperate as his absurdly complicated schemes to get the money unravel. It seemed very much like a Dutch version of Pusher to me in that this unsympathetic guy gets himself into trouble then asks us to root for him as things don't go as planned. Beyond that, it's just ten grand! Couldn't he just get a credit card? Is it really that hard to come up with ten grand for a cop who's willing to steal hash from crime scenes? Maybe the small scale was intentional but to me it just seemed pointless. Meh.|
|09.22.12||The ABCs of Death||Various||Sigh. So there was a little snafu and we ended up having to watch the 6 month-old work print version which I guess is significantly different (and worse) than the final cut. The premise is that Tim League and Ant Timpson gave 5 grand to 26 directors to make a short involving each letter of the alphabet in a horror-themed slant (e.g. A is for Apocalypse, B is for Bigfoot, etc.). The title cards come up at the end telling you what the word is and who directed it so the film's structure becomes a little like a game where you try and guess what's going on and what the word is. A few of them worked, some of them were bizarre in a typical Alamo/Fantastic Fest way, and some of them were in my opinion total misses. Furthermore, it seems like there wasn't enough producer oversight... like they just handed out the money and took what they got back and threw it in the template. There's a joke that works very well for "Q" by Adam Wingard but Jon Schnepp uses the same joke for "W" and it lessened the whole thing for me because there's only room for it once.|
I'm told there's a bunch of changes in the final print and a lot of pacing issues have been fixed. I could tell that Tim was pretty upset to have the first FantasticFest screening of his baby be compromised and I would be too, but I'm also a little peeved that he managed to bring everyone to Toronto for the premiere but there were some significant absenses for the Austin screening. Considering this is the most like Fantastic Fest distilled into one film (I think Tim said something like 23 of the 26 directors had previous films play the fest), there should have been a real blow-out event for this I think. If he's willing to put something from Wrong as the official FF shirt, he should've had everyone here for ABCs and had some special party and given out the alphabetical hats to the audience and done some other shit to really go all out.
So I'm kind of bummed that I didn't see the final cut, especially since I didn't like this version enough to want to watch it again.
|09.23.12||Vanishing Waves||Kristina Buozyte||I had a real strong recommendation for this one. It's about a... Lithuanian? It's about a European brain science team that attempts some Source Code/Matrix/Assassin's Creed shit to investigate the brain of a comatose woman. The main dude, who... I guess shaving or trimming the crazy dark hairs of your gigantic neck mole is not a social necesity over there? Sorry, the main dude who does all the brain-diving starts getting it on with the mental woman and falls in love with her even though she's got some major issues.|
The movie is very deliberately paced and meditative. There's a bunch of "cyber" imagery involving neuron maps and vector art that you spend a long time looking at. In the end, it's a pretty good movie but I was probably over-hyped for it because I didn't really love it at all. I appreciated the nudity (except for the hairy moles on both lead actors) but the plot was a bit too slow for my festival-geared brain.
|09.23.12||Errors of the Human Body||Eron Sheean||This medical thriller takes place at the Planck Institute for... advanced DNA shit. I really felt that the writer/director knew his shit in terms of context as all the talk of genetic disorders, scientific trials and research, and campus politics really felt authentic. This turned out to be one of the more solid films I saw at the fest although I'd still probably rate it a 7 or so. It's a bit slow at times but nothing compared to Vanishing Waves and has a pretty decent ending (after a pretty drawn-out pre-ending sequence that could've been shorter). I liked the ideas behind this and it kind of gave me a Chricton feel kind of in the same vein as Looker or Coma. I liked it.|
|09.23.12||Looper||Rian Johnson||Hey, what's a Bruce Willis movie doing here? Well Rian Johnson is good friends with Eric... Brothers Bloom played I believe as a secret screening... so it makes sense.|
In the future, time travel exists but is outlawed. The mob uses it because it's very hard to dispose of a body in the future so when they have someone they want to get rid of, they send them back in time to be taken care of. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a guy hired to kill these guys and dispose of their bodies for the mob. For that he is well-compensated but he knows that at some point, they will send the older version of himself back for him to kill. That way there's no loose ends or whatever. Or something.
It's an interesting take on time travel. The details still don't really make perfect sense if you think about them too long (or try to write them out as a synopsis (see above)) but it works in the context of the movie. It's a bit more intellectual and slower paced than Minority Report but still with several decent action scenes and a lot of world-building that I love. Also, they prosthetic make-up to make Gordon-levitt look like a young Bruce Willis is amazing. I could've sworn it was digital but the director said it was all practical. This will maybe the the lasting achievement of the movie I think. The sci-fi movie where Joseph Gordon-Levitt does an amazing Bruce Willis impression. He even checks out his hairline in the beginning; I got a kick out of that.
So I liked this movie a lot. It was a good mix for me between innovation and execution and I never felt bored or taken out of it. Willis was in it a bit less than I thought he would be - it's very much JoGo's movie - and the ending seemed a bit... inevitable, but whatever.
|09.23.12||The American Scream||Michael Stephenson||A documentary (produced by Alamo Jack!) by the kid from Troll 2 about a handful of guys who put on amateur hanted houses in their back yards every year for Halloween. This is the first of three stand-out documentaries that I saw this year, each one really blew me away.|
The cool thing about this movie is that all three main subjects live within a mile of eachother in the same small COnnecticut town. That's insane. Talk about lucky kids. I'd never even heard of people doing amateur haunted houses. I know there's always someone in the neighborhood that go all out with the decorations (me during middle and high school) but I'd never dream to actually have an attraction and make people stand in line or hire actors. that's insane! And here's this one small town in New England where there's 3 6 blocks from one another!
With every doc that follows this structure, it lives or dies by its subjects and the families profiles here are amazingly sympathetic and entertaining. One guy's fanatic striving toward perfection (born from a strict religious childhood), another's easy-going counterpoint, and a third eccentric father and son who are best friends although, truth be told, completely inept in their decorations. All three are bursting at the seems with heart and you want so desperately for them all to succeed.... and here's the thing: there's no real tension! Succeed against what? not completing their decorations? having no kids show up on Halloween? I have no clue! but I was still rooting for them way more than any character from any other movie I saw at the fest!
I really want to compare this to American Movie but it's not really a good comparison because I was pretty sad for those characters and watching them try and fail (much like Anvil) felt a little exploitative to me because I felt like the movie was trying to get me to laugh at the characters. This movie never made me feel that, even when particular decorations fall apart or break or look terrible. The film is unstoppably optimistic and kind toward its subjects, and there was real heartfelt emotion for me at the end of the film seeing people enjoy their hard work. I feel like I wasn't alone in almost crying. A day or two later Tim League floated the idea on twitter of chartering a bus to drive from Austin to Connecticut to support the main subject's first foray into professional haunted house production. If I could get off work I'd totally do it because I want that guy to find stable financial success in doing something he truly loves.
If not my favorite movie of the fest, it was certainly in the top five.
After the movie, Zack said that someone barfed right outside the theater so we all had to use the emergency exit. It sounded suspiciously like we were being routed into a really quick haunt put up by one of the film's subjects. That brought back my most vivid memories of going to haunted house as a teen (waiting in very long slow-moving lines) and resulted in a nice enough little tour of Halloweenabilia to bring in the season. The most awkward part was when it dumped us out into a party at the end of the ride where people were just hanging out in this smoke-filled low light room. When I finally found the exit it led us to the alley behind the Alamo and we had to walk around the whole building to get back to the safety of the crowd. Fun.
|09.24.12||The Final Member||Jonah Bekhor, Zach Math||This is an incredible doc (2 of 3 seen this year) about this guy from Iceland who, for some reason, has a Phallological museum of cock. It's basically dicks of all walks of life. Dick bones, dicks in jars, dicks in boxes, dried dicks mounted on the wall, dick wood carvings, dick cofee mugs, dick statues, etc. He has one of every kind of dick in the world on display, save one species: homo sapiens. The movie follows the strange and incredible journey as the museum curator tries to secure a specimen and complete his life's work before his health fails him and he dies. Although he's prepared to donate his own junk if he does kick the bucket, he has two other dudes on the hook: some famous Iceland adventurer guy who claims to have slept with thousands of women and a crazy American guy who has delusions of grandeur for his cock. Seriously, he wants it removed before he dies so he can sit back and watch as his rod gains world fame. He has ideas for a comic book.|
The race for who will fulfill the Final Specimen is incredible both in its oddity and entertainment value. The twists and turns that take place to get one final cock in the jar amazed me. Hilarious. Plus the documentarians got incredibly lucky in being able to capture a suitable ending to the movie that really makes it fulfilling. Great movie.
|09.24.12||Holy Motors||Leos Carax||Lots of people raved about this in their pre-fest recommendations to me. I definitely heard "The movie of the festival" more than once. It follows a guy around as he makes several "appointments" throughout a day/night cycle, filling certain roles in life kind of like an actor in God's movie. They are incredibably disparate and kind of random so it becomes a game to count each appointment and guess what the next one will be. There's no doubt that the performance by Denis Levant is remarkable and amazing and should be applauded, but the movie itself didn't really connect with me. My favorite part was an entreacte musical number done with a cadre of accordians (found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qxG3LzYkfg ). I also liked when he dressed up as his character from the anthology Tokyo! and gave kind of a flipside-view of the events in that short.|
This reminded me a bit of Gaspar Noe in that it's definitely daring and new and for that I commend it even if it's not my favorite movie of all time. Walking out, I was a disappointed and felt like I didn't get what everybody else got but looking back I'm already grateful for seeing it. A little distance has sweetened it for me (although I doubt I'll see it again. I will listen to that song again though. right now).
|09.24.12||Antiviral||Brandon Cronenberg||First film from David Cronenberg's son. It's suitably early-Cronenbergian. Filled with Body issues. The central conceit though I don't quite accept. In the future, people are so taken with celebrity that they're not only willing but it's considered a luxury to ingest diseases that celebrities have had. So a guy gets a Total Recall-esque sales pitch except for instead of a memory-implant of a vacation you get herpes!? Also, skin and muscle cells from celebrities are cultured and sold as steaks for people to eat.|
I suppose if you can accept that, you'd have a pretty solid little mystery type movie on your hands. There's some stuff involving blood and viruses and cool sci-fi tech to genetically modify stuff and they use a kind of cool idea where each bug has an identifiable "face" in the form of creepy blurry photographs of people's faces. You also get a movie where the main character is completely passive the entire time and a kind of weak ending that I didn't completely understand. It's certainly not without merits and the visual look of the film is impeccable, but I spent the entire thing thinking "wait, people WANT to be sick?" I get that it's social commentary but still... I found the premise too much of a stretch.
|09.24.12||Taped||Diederik Van Rooijen||Great Dutch thriller about a couple who go on vacation to Argentina then by happenstance capture a dirty cop killing some dude. Apparently this has already been picked up for an American remake which makes perfect sense although I doubt it'll be as good for a few reasons.|
1. It's so refreshing to me to see a movie where tourists are out of their element and don't speak the language when their native tongue ISN'T ENGLISH. The fact that the two main actors are Dutch is a major factor for me. Once you make them American it seems a thousand percent more old and familiar.
2. The two leads here are so strong that the director can rest a huge portion of the movie's dramatic responsibility on them. I don't think there's a single frame of this film that doesn't have one or both of the leads in it. The director does an ongoing technique of switching off who to follow for that scene. And the camera stays close. It literally runs along side the actors. The camerawork here is superb in how it withholds just the right things to add tensions to scenes all while hand-held and immediate to the overall fear of the thing. If the actors aren't good enough to do these long uninterrupted physically- and emotionally-demanding scenes and so the camera has to pull back and cut a lot more, I don't think the terrifyingly plausible yet relatively simple story is strong enough to hold your interest.
So I guess this note is a series of compliments framed as pre-emptive hate for the remake, but hopefully my very positive feelings on THIS movie shine through. I really liked it and thought it was a success.
|09.25.12||Outrage Beyond||Takeshi Kitano||The sequel to last year's surprisingly non-weird Yakuza movie from Takeshi Kitano. I'm still not very versed in his earlier stuff so the relative straight-forwardness of it didn't bother me at all and I thought it was a solid gangster movie with a suitably convoluted plot. The sequel is on par with the first I think. I spent a little time wondering what the sequel could possibly be considering just about everyone died in the first movie but they get around that with a minimal amount of retconning and I was actually surprised at how quickly the story picked right up and started moving again. This one pays a bit more attention to the skeevy dirty cop and deals with the aftermath of the new boss's hostile takover. Like the last one, there's about a thousand characters and tons of plot going by pretty quickly but it's never boring, I never felt any strange leaps in logic, and really the only bad thing I can say about the movie is that the ending is pretty soft. It seems destined for a third film to make it a trilogy, which I have no problem with. Good solid movie.|
|09.25.12||Bring Me the Head of Machine Gun Woman||Ernesto Diaz Espinoza||The director is back again and, like Mandrill a few years ago, gives off the distinct vibe that he's pretty much only making movies in order to come back to the festival. On one hand I don't blame him. On another, I understand it's very hard to get a movie made in Chile. But on a third hand, the movie's still not great. It's handicapped by its budget but it's also just such a minor story that it feels like nothing at all. Cheap cotton candy. They try to use a GTA-style theme with scores and missions and whatnot but... just like how it irks me when movie computers don't behave like they should, my gaming nerd brain was irked when the analogy wasn't used correctly. So i was probably more sensitive to that than others, but overall there just wasn't much to the movie at all. A hot girl in a kinda cool completely impractical outfit... eh.|
|09.25.12||No Rest for the Wicked||Enrique Urbizu||A Spanish thriller about a dirty cop who kills some dudes in a drunken rage then spends the whole movie trying to track down a witness who happens to be tied into some crazy drug gang or something. It's kind of confusing since there's 2 completely separate groups searching for the same dudes from either end of the investigation, but maybe if it were in English and went by a bit faster I would've found it less so. So it's kind of a long wait but when the two investigations do converge and Stuff actually Happens, it's pretty decent. On a whole the movie's not bad at all and when I look back I like it, but I do remember it being a tad bit slow. Worth checking out though if you're into that kind of thing.|
|09.25.12||Sightseers||Ben Wheatley||Pitch black comedy about a boyfriend and girlfriend that go on holiday (British) and kind of sort of become killing spree multiple murderers. This really surprised me. I liked it a great deal. I missed Kill List but only thought Down Terrace was OK. This was really good. Hilarious, captivating, surprising... everything you'd want in a movie like this. Really fun stuff.|
Oh, this was the first secret screening of the fest. They also showed it in two theaters so more people could see. I like both trends of having fewer secret screenings and making them more accessible. A lot of the logistics and mechanics of the fest (except for the usual bevy of small things and the goddamn PA seating announcement lobby lining up nonsense) were better this year. They're baby steps but I feel like each year gets a little better in terms of no headaches or major pains in the ass.
|09.26.12||Wake in Fright||Ted Kotcheff||I guess this movie was almost were it not for the efforts of some awesome print archivists and now Drafthouse Films is re-releasing it. I really love stories like this... how the negatives were thought lost and then found in some unmarked box posted for destruction 48 hours after being discovered, then painstakingly renovated to be brought back to life. Or some random pristine print found in a closed hospital in Sweden or something because they used to screen it for child patients. These are stories that will soon be gone forever now that all films are digital, but something about the tactile vulnerability of the film itself really satisfies the film nerd neurons in my brain.|
Anyway, the film is kind of a typical existential 70s freak-out where a guy, kind of stuck in mundane life, gets roped into this absolutely hellish lost weekend adventure like he literally took a vacation in hell like the brimstone biblical hell with fires and devils and torture and shit... then at the end of the movie he for some reason loves it. I don't... well.. I guess maybe I sort of understand it but in the sissy white intellectual college student way like I appreciate the cinematography in SPike Lee films but I don't think I'll ever understand these types of movies in the grizzly 90-year old blues guitarist with a roadmap of cracks in his hands way like realy FEEEEEEL it man. I'll never be there, so parts of this movie left me cold.
It's great though. Everything that movies have taught me about how dirty, fly-ridden, sweaty, orange, crazy, beer-soaked, rough and tumble, and batshit crazy rural Australia was and is and will always be. The amount of beer ingested in this movie, particularly in long chugging swallows, is really impressive. Donald Pleasance is also great. Boy that rape came out of nowhere, didn't it!?
|09.26.12||Room 237||Rodney Ascher||A documentary catalogging various insane theories by people who have seen the movie a shitload of times. This seemed to be pretty divisive at the fest. To those that thought it was just crazy people talking and got bored with it, I see you're point. It's my motherfucking kind of crazy though so I loved the shit out of this.|
The film is really well constructed, using footage from the film (and many many others, surprisingly deep cuts) to illustrate the interviewee's points very well. They never actually show the interview subjects on screen which I liked very much. It reminded me of the old Alamo features that Kier-La and Lars used to edit together from found and archival footage (this was helped by me sitting with Kier-La and her saying this was just like the old stuff she used to do). Furthermore every obtuse reference and minor detail is queued up and displayed for you so you can actually follow the crazy machinations as they unfold. There's one great scene though where someone notes that you can see Stanley Kubrick's face in the clouds of a certain external shot in the film and the doc lets you look for it on your own without the box highlights or arrows that help you out troughout the rest of the film. All of a sudden I found myself frantically searching for this image of Kubrick in these clouds and realized the entire theater was doing the same. It's a really nice subtle touch that I loved and had fun talking to people about afterward (I didn't see him. I thought I saw a huge pair of eyes but other people claimed to have found a full portrait of him)
Also, kudos to the fest for screening The Shining backward and forward like they talk about in this doc. In kind of a dark side of the moon touch, if you watch them superimposed several cool overlays happen. Unfortunately, both screenings of this experiment were against can't-miss screenings so i didn't get to see all of it but the doc helpfully shows us the specific scenes that are mentioned so I don't feel like I completely missed out.
|09.26.12||Cloud Atlas||Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer||So... I've actually put this off as the last note to write about Fantastic Fest. It's currently October 11th so... it's been several weeks since I've seen it so it's nowhere even close to a first impression, but I also wanted enough mental space to talk about this as long as I want to without the rest of the fest weighing down on me.|
Oh, and I haven't read the book, fyi.
So... Cloud Atlas. Huge. Ambitious. Epic. Grand. Confident. Success.
This is a movie, much like The Fountain or other movies that sort of connect stories through space and time by common themes and also those movies where actors play multiple parts, is a movie that strides to be truly universal and say something as big as humanity itself. It's a story of everything being connected, not such that it's people's ancestor or even common souls as such but more like how people pop up and life folds in on itself. It's not shy about aiming for the fences and is so audacious with its interwined story that I feel like a lot of its success comes from the mere fact that it doesn't fail at what it's trying to do.
So... geez. How do I even talk about this movie? I guess I'll start with the bad.
-Some of the make-up really threw me off. Particularly anything with the Asian girl. Her mexican lady was kind of a joke.
-I didn't really love how all of Hugh Grant's and Hugo Weaving's parts were antagonists. I wish they would've mixed it up a bit more and had everybody play good and bad guys rather than keeping things so on the nose.
Overall it's a really remarkable film. My main memories are of how well every story thread is woven together and how everything makes multiple levels of sense and how great a lot of the make-up is. Jim Broadbent is fantastic, Ben Whishaw is fantastic, Tom Hanks is really great. The future stuff is still a little wonky with its future-speak but whatever. He actually pulls of the cockney tough guy which astounds me because I think he looks utterly ridiculous in the still photos I've seen of him in that character. The music's great, the editing is superb, the style is unique and as big as the subject matter... everything is just... really hard not to gush about.
|09.26.12||Secret Ceremony||Joseph Losey||Elizabeth Tailor and Mia Farrow freak out together. This is the second in a three-movie series of rep screenings about Psychotic Women programmed in conjunction with Kier-la Janisse's new book. I had to miss the first one because it was up against a secret screening or something but I was happy to see that I could fit the other two in nicely. I'm a big fan of Kier-la and her writing and her unique taste in movies so it was incredibly nice to get a small taste of the old-school 409 Colorado programming back in the Alamo.|
So this movie... I couldn't really imagine a movie that fits "psychotic women" better. It's pretty much ALL crazy women for the whole movie. Too much so. Plus you have this magnificent baggage... like you can tell that Taylor is really freaked out about her double chin. And Mia's future controversy kind of defines her for me and she did this right after Rosemary's Baby. One is young and fresh, the other is confronting her age. To see they feed off each other is really intense. Plus it's directed very loosely. Lots of long takes just letting these women go. And when they find any semblance of calm we throw in a super smarmy Robert Mitchum or looney older Aunts to stir the pot.
So there are things to like about this movie, but I personally found it too heavy for my tastes. It's just too much crazy for me. Maybe because I'm a dude.
|09.27.12||Tower Block||James Nunn, Ronnie Thompson||A group of tenants at the top floor of a ghetto high-rise are terrorized by a sniper. Like a robot Marky Wahlberg-caliber sniper who shoots bullets so fast as to not account for wind speed and distance. Sorry, i didn't like this much. I guess it wasn't terrible but I don't remember much good about it. Oh, right. At one point they make it to the ground floor and to the back door that's not coered by the sniper, but they can't exit because the sniper has placed a garbage bin - like those massive ones behind restaurants - at the door. So they head back up and more people die and later on they use a sledgehammer to... do something else. It was one of those instances where I spent the whole time pissed at the movie because they could easily use the sledgehammer to break a hole in the wall NEXT to the back door. I mean even if it's straight cinder block or concrete or something.. wouldn't you whack at it with your sledgehammer for a few hours before gambling on your life by going out on the roof? gah.|
Anyway, this was one of the few that really didn't do much for me at all during the fest, sorry to say. I still love Severance.
|09.27.12||Wrong||Quentin Dupieux||Mr. Oizo's Quentin Dupiex's follow-up to Rubber, about a guy who loses his dog. Surreal stuff can be hit or miss with me but the stuff I like I REALLY like. Rubber fell victim to festival fatigue for me I think so I almost didn't see this because it's so late in the fest but Micah really enjoyed it so I decided to take a chance. I'm glad I did because I liked it too.|
It took me a long time (mostly watching Bunuel movies on criterion dvd via netflix) to come to a personal approach to surreal in that it not making any sense IS the point. Certain messages on the surface are still there but there doesn't have to be any deeper meaning or symbolism or anything like that. Case in point: it's raining inside the office because it is. To me this is funny exactly when we go into the manager's office and she has a pile of towels to use and she doesn't like getting her chairs wet. I guess the deeper meaning is that it doesn't normally rain inside an office? Just like clocks usually don't display "7:60" instead of "8:00." I may be completely wrong with my interpretation of this material but, under my current understanding, I found this to be pretty entertaining.
Mostly because it's funny. Bill Fichtner's great. Steve Little's great. The gardener's great. It looks great. And it's funny. So I liked this, and moreso I've been thinking back and liking it more and more since seeing it. It's kind of turned into a highlight for me in my brain.
Also, I'm pretty sure Bill Fichtner's character lives in the Sowden house. I know it because Steve Hodel claims that's where his dad killed the Black Dahlia in his book and I found the crazy details of the house really interesting. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright's son, it's a crazy Mayan design with a center courtyard and weird hidden rooms and things like that. Super inside but I liked seeing it and making that connection.
|09.27.12||Red Dawn||Dan Bradley||Remake. Wasn't unwatchably terrible but also wasn't really notable or good in any way. My memory of this has already faded. harsh!|
|09.27.12||The Entity||Sidney J. Furie||My last movie of the festival was Kier-la's screening of this 80s classic which had slipped through the cracks for me. It's basically known as the ghost rape movie. Barbara Hershey plays the rapee and Ron Silver plays a shrink who thinks it's psychosomatic. I have to say, Hershey's performance in this movie is phenomenal. I mean I don't exactly get the connection with psychosis (I'll have to read the book!) since the movie makes it pretty clear that supernatural things are happening, but it must've been a pretty hard role to play and she was utterly believable. Ron Silver was also good in his weird way. There's also a weird "this is inspired by true events" message at the end of the movie that feels like a total 80s device that I somehow believe just because the ending was so weak. I liked it though. I forget how nice it is to watch older movies at the Alamo, particularly when it's not a packed house. I know this is antithetical to every business model but there's something about being in a theater with just one or two dozen other people... like we're the hardcore who show up for the unpopular ticket or we're all in some unspoken club for liking something that other people don't... or even just that we'd rather watch a movie than go to a party feels really good to me. The movie feels more personal somehow.|
Anyway, after the movie I didn't really feel like going to the party. I was tired, the theme seemed kind of tired, I didn't love the venue last year, and all things considered I felt like it was over. So it was a very unceremonious and abrupt end to my festival. I simply walked to my car and drove home.
It's several weeks later now by the way. I know there are things I wanted to mention in these notes but now can't remember. Instead let me just put a general note here about how great it was to hang out with the old friends that I saw. It seems like fewer and fewer people are coming out to this thing. Tiffany, Victor, Ryan... all missing this year. The plus side of that is twofold: I got to spend more time with Micah and Jarrette and had some great times in between movies. And also I got to meet a bunch of new people. My pre-movie conversation with Marc English was illuminating. Antonio asked me to sign his book. More people than I thought remembered who I was which was flattering. I do wish I would've forced myself to write this earlier but fuck it.