|FantasticFest 2014 (09.18.14 - 09.25.14, 33 movies)|
|09.18.14||Tusk||Kevin Smith||Fantastic Fest 2014. FFX.|
For the past 6 years I've had to juggle the fest with work, skipping the midnights in order to get some sleep before making it in to the office for the morning then skipping out at around noon to watch movies. Well enough of that shit! They laid me off two weeks ago so this year I am doing this fucker UP. Of course I haven't undergone some dramatic personality shift or anything so you won't see me drunk off my ass trying to sing karaoke or anything like that, but I do plan to see as much as I damn well please and enjoy myself this year.
As such, I've included these notes in the deal. They will be really minimal this year. Like two or three words minimal. Basically I don't want to have to worry about anything other than finding a parking spot in the garage and hearing my boarding number in the lobby. I wish I had the energy or time to go into greater detail - and I might still for a few - but mostly I don't want the burden. So, future me, sorry these aren't as complete as the other years... but fuck it. It's the tenth one, let's have some fun.
First thoughts on the new South Lamar: the garage wasn't as bad as I thought it would be but it's still too damn small. Really everything is too damn small. The highball, the karaoke rooms, the indoor lobby, the outdoor plaza... this will be the most cramped year of the fest I think, especially if it keeps raining and making everything humid as fuck.
The original theaters/hallway feel really weird stuck inside the ultra-modern rebuild, but they are like greeting old friends.
13 dollar pizza.
the intercom still fucking sucks. Unless you're in the lobby you can't hear shit. And still no goddamn TV showing what's boarding WHAT THE FUCK.
EVERYTHING ELSE about the theater is great. I don't mean to come off too negative. I knew I would have certain gripes but really for an opening night it went very smoothly and I'm excited about something in every day of my schedule.
Fantastic Arcade is stuck into the nooks and crannies as usual, but I got to meet Tim Schafer which was awesome even though I got super nervous and felt like a dork afterward. I recognized a few other Double Fine dudes... Super awesome that they're here.
Tusk sucked. Didn't like it. Over the end credits they play the snippet of the podcast where they came up with this idea and that's about right. It feels like a movie a couple stoners dreamt up on a podcast. That said, I enjoyed Harley Morenstein's cameo (hope I'm spelling that somewhere near right) and Johnny Depp has an exceedingly weird part. I kind of respect how Kevin Smith made this movie to show other people that they can make movies... but still. it's crap. Just watch the first Human Centipede instead. This never finds a consistent tone and gets really uneven with super long scenes. Michael Parks is good, Justin Long is good, Depp is good... but most of the script is terrible. OK I laughed in one scene where Michael Parks tries to convince Justin Long that a spider bit him, but that's it. That and Harley.
|09.18.14||ABCs of Death 2||Various||Way better than the first... but still mostly forgettable. It was really wise or lucky though to have the last short be by far the best. It was the first moment of the night where I felt that amazing fantastic fest feeling of seeing something new and extreme and being surrounded by people that were receptive to it. A really great final bit. A few of the other ones were good too, most of them were kind of random and forgettable.|
|09.18.14||Darkness by Day||Martin De Salvo||Way too slow for a midnight show. It's all atmosphere like something from Spain (this one is Argentinian) but it's too vague and not enough happens. I ended up thinking it wasn't terrible but I was bored through most of it.|
|09.19.14||Dwarves Kingdom||Matthew Salton||A documentary about a theme part in China filled with little people. I saw this on An Idiot Abroad when they sent Karl Pilkington there so I knew a little about it but this goes more in depth and interviews several of the people who work/live there. It was a little boring, but presented interesting ideas about the gray space between genuine benevolence and exploitation. Not the most riveting doc in the world though.|
|09.19.14||Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films||Mark Hartley||Great doc about Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus and all the shit they put out during the 80s. I love now that I'm an adult or whatever when these docs go into detail and behind the scenes on things that I remember experiencing in childhood. When I was a kid, all I knew was that all these ninja films started showing up on the rental shelves and all of a sudden me and my friends wanted throwing stars and nunchucks. It's really cool to see the business end of that equation recounted in typical energy and vivre that Harltey brings to his docs. He had a real gift as an editor. Every clip of the movies he shows is a perfect choice, distilling the absurdity and extremity of that movie in like 2 lines or 3 seconds. A lot of the time he splits the screen to show two things happening at once both illustrating whatever point the interviewee was making. The sheer amount of footage is amazing and the fact that it's organized and presented with such clarity is a real feat. Of course, anyone who saw his Ozploitation or Filipino actress docs knows what I'm talking about.|
Really great doc.
|09.19.14||John Wick||Chad Stahelski||Keanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe, and anyone who's ever appeard on an HBO show star in this fucking kickass action movie. They do a great job of setting up how badass Keanu is without having a guy in uniform list off his accomplishments. It does a lot of action-y stuff real well actually. Liked this a lot. Keanu's dreamy. Too bad even he isn't immune to the complete clusterfuck that is the south lamar lobby.|
So far this is my fav.
|09.19.14||V/H/S Viral||Various||didn't like this. Nacho's was interesting but once you get the joke there's really only a few sight gags going for it. The wrapper is not QUITE as annoying as the previous two but still sucks and makes no sense. The other two shorts were pretty lame. If it weren't for Nacho I don't think I would've seen this and I wasn't surprised at all with what I got. And the transitiony VHS-esque noise and jumble was loud as fuck. If I ever had a tape that played that poorly... I would return it and take my VCR in for repair. sucks.|
|09.20.14||My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn||Liv Corfixen||A doc by Refn's life following the making of Only God Forgives, which I haven't seen. This is more of a personal intimate portrait of the man rather than a making-of thing. Some keen insights I guess but I think they are nothing not shared amongst most artists. insecurity, constant search for meaning, mixed feelings about the work, regret at not being able to change anything. It was decent.|
|09.20.14||The Astrologer||Craig Denney||This was an AGFA screening presented by Tim League and Refn. Holy shit it's great. Craig Denney made a movie starring himself about how the world should be. It's filled with adventures and the highs and lows of success and fame. For real, the same movie has cobra and quicksand deaths, the US Navy paying an astrologer for advice, a meta-mind explosion of a movie called The Astrologer making 145 million dollars, and a Kenyan prison.|
I wish I could go on and on for two hours writing about this but I'm too tired and have already forgotten a bunch of quality details. You're not an astrologer, you're an asshole!
Loved it. definitely in my top five.
|09.20.14||In Order of Disappearance||Hans Peter Moland||A Somewhat Gentle Man was a real surprise hit for me so I think that clouded my expectations of this a little bit. It's certainly a solid revenge picture with a great setting and beautiful photography and interesting characters, but I was somehow still expecting something more. I think that's my fault. It's a good solid film. I particularly loved the villain's taste in interior design. He had all these modeling hands on a wall showing sign language (with some in the corner made into middle fingers) and these awesome chairs where the backs were sculpted faces with holes for eyes so you could look through them. Amazing stuff.|
|09.20.14||Bros Before Hos||Steffen Haars, Flip Van der Kuil||from the makers of New Kids Turbo. This was a much more conventional story with a love triangle and typical romantic comedy structure but still with off-color humor and language to make it really damn funny. |
Spoiler alert but it's amazing that they accomplish what everyone wanted from Be Kind Rewind just during the end credits.
Funny stuff. Loved it.
|09.20.14||The Editor||Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy||Not knowing much about the movie, it took me about 10 minutes to readjust my reaction once I learned it was supposed to be a comedy rather than just a really really bad horror movie. It reminded me in some ways of the old slasher spoofs like Saturday the 14th and Student Bodies in that it was spoofing a really specific kind of film. The big difference here though is that a lot of the humor comes from aspects of Giallo like bad dubbing and translated dialogue so the irony meter was off the charts and that kind of thing rarely works for me. There were still one or two funny moments for me but mostly I didn't go for the tone and felt that it was about a half hour too long.|
|09.21.14||The Soultangler||Pat Bishow||A VHS discovery from Zack that he's releasing in the US for the first time. It's a home-made horror movie kind of similar to Re-Animator. Although a lot of it is pretty rough, there's a definite charm in these homebrew one-offs that I absolutely love. All the non-actors and bad sound mixing and amateur craftsmanship is really endearing to me because it's most clear in these types of movies that the people who made them just LOVED movies and wanted to make their own. There's no studio politics or anything... and nearly every one of these that I've seen has an interesting release or business deal behind it. Parts of this reminded me of Black Devil Doll, others of Equinox... the gore at the end is surprisingly good.|
|09.21.14||Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau||David Gregory||Half Jodorowsky's Dune, half Lost in La Mancha, this doc follows the inception and eventual production of the 90s Dr. Moreau film with Brando and Kilmer. Also just like both those other docs, it's like crack to a film geek like me. Richard Stanley is a really interesting character and his stories of production are just insane... but then the stories of after Frankenheimer took over are even more insane... then the stories told during the Q&A were the most insane of all. The story of Stanley's witch buddy in London named Skip who suffered from radiation weakening his bones and necrotizing fasciitis then developed an addiction to pain medication but then got clean and became a drug counselor then started recruiting addicts that he counseled into his coven (skip was from Ft. Lauderdale originally)... insane. He also excellently fielded a question of whether he had ever met Jodorowsky or seen the doc ("A close examination of that film will reveal that I am in it")... AND I got a free blu of HARDWARE!!! This screening was the best.|
Loved this one.
|09.21.14||Horns||Alexandre Aja||This was also good. I kinda thought it would be good and it was good. Went to some interesting places... the end got to be a bit much but whatever. most of it was great. I just wish the mystery wasn't telegraphed so clearly by casting and the script.|
Mostly good though. I liked it.
|09.21.14||Tokyo Tribe||Sion Sono||Holy shit this was awesome. I want the soundtrack and I want to watch it again. Maybe my fav of the fest? It's just so goddamn good. The music is rockin, the design of the world and tribes is kickass and unique, there's enough panty shots and nudity to check that box for me... the fighting is good... it just has everything you could ask for out of this festival.|
At this point, looking back, I wish I wasn't so hesitant to enjoy Sono's films in previous years. I really liked the one from last year but didn't see Cold Fish for whatever reason and actively avoided the hair extensions one.
|09.21.14||Redeemer||Ernesto Diaz Espinoza||Way better than Mandrill but I think I still like Mirageman more just because of the context of that memory. If I watched it again I'm not sure... The serious parts of this one could get a little old on rewatching but the action is intense and brutal and real and Marko Zaror's talents get showcased in the best possible way. Plus there's a really good cover of "Run On" on the soundtrack.|
Good soundtracks this year...
|09.22.14||Force Majeure||Ruben Ostlund||This was really good. The dude who plays Tormund Giantsbane on game of thrones is great in a supporting role. It's a very awkward tension but it's really well done and the scenery is beautiful and interesting and the movie adeptly plays with this feeling of impending doom that I thought was really great.|
|09.22.14||The Babadook||Jennifer Kent||Solid horror movie with an ending that I didn't like. Could've been a lot worse, but it also never really escalated so something I was completely absorbed by. Good performances though.|
|09.22.14||Free Fall||Gyorgy Palfi||I really admired Hukkle and downright loved Taxidermia so I was really looking forward to this... and was pretty disappointed. Moments here and there were cool but for the most part it felt aimless and random. A real shame.|
|09.22.14||Cub||Jonas Govaerts||Pack of cub scouts goes out camping and bad stuff happens. I mostly really liked this but the last act kind of unraveled everything for me to the point where I was pretty meh walking out of the theater. After discussing possible franchise opportunities with Micah however I began to see a bit more of the quality of this film. I still have some pretty big issues with it but I must admit that it looks great, has an interesting premise, and was mostly pretty good. I'd count it in the "liked" column.|
|09.23.14||The Stranger||Guillermo Amoedo||this sucked.|
|09.23.14||Everly||Joe Lynch||This was pretty good. all around decent. Plus I love how Joe Lynch knows the fest so well and seems genuinely excited to be out there making movies. Another dog death, which I think makes 5 that I've seen this year? And goddamn Salma Hayek might be an alien or robot or something. How she can still look that good is beyond me.|
|09.23.14||Goodnight Mommy||Severin Fiala, Veronika Franz||This was the secret screening, Tim said it was his fav at TIFF. I thought it was good for the most part but some aspects bothered me which kept me from liking it much more. It's definitely well-crafted... I suppose I'd have to see it again to see if my problems were real or not... but whatever. We all stood around discussing it afterward which is always great.|
But yeah... that krazy glue scene was very memorable. Good stuff.
|09.23.14||The Guest||Adam Wingard||I think this is the first Adam Wingard movie that I can unequivocally say that I liked. They really nailed the tone and brought out just the right amount of humor which helped it fantastically. Plus some great performances, good music, and fun set pieces. I really had a lot of fun with this.|
Simon Barrett was also really funny in the Q&A. I still wish they would go even further and commit to a straight-up dark comedy rather than stick to horror. I think they could really nail a comedy.
|09.23.14||Housebound||Gerard Johnstone||I really liked this one as well. They managed a great excuse to keep people in the haunted house (house arrest) and developed the scares with a healthy mix of hunmor that reminded me of The Frighteners a bit. This was really a lot of fun. I liked it quite a bit.|
|09.24.14||Kung Fu Elliot||Matthew Bauckman, Jaret Belliveau||A really awkward and fascinating doc about this guy who believes that he's Canada's Jackie Chan. It's got some American Movie in there as well but it's also some self-delusion and craziness. Although the director insisted that it was real a part of me still thinks this is made up because the ending gets SO crazy.|
|09.24.14||The Duke of Burgundy||Peter Strickland||Liked this one a lot. It's just as hypnotic and astral as Berberian Sound Studio but with a subject matter much more fitting in my opinion. Since I didn't expect much of a plot (and certainly nothing as complex or intricate as a Giallo) and perhaps because I was already familiar of Strickland's style I was happy to let the trippier parts of this movie wash over me. I love that they give a "Perfume by" credit along with a "Dresses and Lingerie" and all the insects and field recordings at the end. It's a truly peculiar movie but quite lovely and strikingly beautiful. And some damn fine lingerie as well.|
|09.24.14||Open Windows||Nacho Vigalondo||Technically audacious, this movie takes place entirely on a computer monitor. My expectations of this were drastically reduced based on feedback from SXSW so I ended up liking it more than I thought I would. It's true that the ending unravels but for the most part I was engaged by it completely. And it's cool to see Austin and the Alamo and even Fantastic Fest in the movie. There are plenty of familiar faces there in the crowd and Scott Weinberg even gets a line! Yeah, I liked this one... I think the problem is Timecrimes was really good and we all know that Nacho's grasp on the craft and technology of filmmaking is there so we want everything he does to be absolutely amazing... which is not realistic. I do wish he would make more movies though.|
|09.24.14||Norway||Yannis Veslemes||Very stylized, some interesting imagery, a funny Nazi joke toward the end, but that was about it for me. It's admirable that this guy wrote, directed, scored, and did the production design (and I bet I'm forgetting a few other roles) and there is definitely some interesting visuals in here... but the story is very minimal and I didn't quite follow what was going on most of the time. Perhaps it was lost in translation.|
Then I had to skip my first slot in the whole fest because my throat is sore and I don't want to be sick for a family visit this weekend. I'm really wishing they picked the weekend BEFORE the fest at this point but oh well...
|09.25.14||Future Shock: The Story of 2000AD||Paul Goodwin||A well-produced doc on the 2000AD comic and it's relevance in comics history. I knew next to nothing about 2000AD other than Dredd so it was cool to learn a bunch of stuff including how it served as inspiration for movies like Hardware and Timecrimes. Good doc.|
|09.25.14||Let Us Prey||Brian O'Malley||Liam Cunningham plays some sort of weird demon fallen angel type thing who brings out everyone's past sins or something. I thought this was alright except for the absolute dumb parts (which were many).|
|09.25.14||Nightcrawler||Dan Gilroy||Before this I watched a few episodes of an Australian comedy TV show called Danger 5 which was pretty damn funny in a gonzo over-the-top way.|
Then it was time for the closing night film: Nightcrawler.
This was really good. I expected the story to go more in a desperate/creating-crime-scene direction but was happy with the angle that it took. Gyllenhaal's character is really great. The director also did a great Q&A which I've already forgot all the details of.
The party was kind of lame though. They moved it from the Ghost Town at the last minute so it was in the courtyard outside, the lobby, the highball, and one of the theaters instead. I'd just spent all week feeling claustrophobic and pressed in like sardines in that damn space so the party felt like more of the same to me and I was over it immediately. Victor, Grant and I walked around back to look at the surviving You're Next mural then left pretty quickly. Plus I was getting a cold.
A big lesson learned this year is that even when I CAN stay for the midnight, it's often better if I don't. The one slot I missed this year (Wednesday midnight) was for a movie I've heard was good (It Follows) and if I didn't have family coming in the very next day I probably would've pushed it and just been really sick through the weekend, but a lot of the midnights I did stay for weren't strong movies and getting more sleep would probably have done more good.
Overall I thought the film programming was great this year, the organization took a few steps closer to great, and I loved seeing all the familiar faces again. However, I don't feel it was "special" in any way for the 10th anniversary, had some real nagging questions and problems with the theater renovation, and the Alamo menu is in real poor shape. I usually make it most of the way through the week before repeating favorite items but this year I was sick of the whole menu by day 3 and by the end it was just chicken strips (assuming they brought the sauce I had to ask for0 and pizzas. Everything else is way overpriced and just doesn't taste that good. It's a shame.
So... my Top 5 this year:
My bottom five:
5-Darkness by Day
I'd say I liked 26 of the 34 things I saw though which is a pretty good ratio.