|FantasticFest 2015 (09.24.15 - 10.01.15, 34 movies)|
|09.24.15||The Lobster||Yorgos Lanthimos||Another year of Fantastic Fest kicked off with this new film from the Dogtooth guy. I haven't seen Dogtooth but I've heard enough about it to get the gist... enough that I knew what I was in for with this anyway. A surprisingly well-known cast fills out this weird world where people must be in couples and if you don't then you get sent to this hotel where you have so long to find a match before you're turned into an animal.|
A large part of this movie for me was about figuring out what the world's deal was. In that, I didn't really succeed. The tone of this movie is somewhere near a very dark comedy. I usually like dark humor, but some parts of this verged into territory that I don't think was supposed to be funny, so then it was just dark.
In the end, I didn't mind this, but I don't think I'd see it again. Colin Farrell has a gut in it. I guess so his identifying feature couldn't be that he's really handsome.
A note about the fest in general: Holy shit they have some TVs up in the lobby showing what's seating. I won't presume to take any credit for this (since I can't have been the only person to make this suggestion in the feedback survey... every year for the past 6 years), but dear lord and I happy it exists. Still not perfect, mind you, but a serious step in the right direction.
And what's up with the construction not being done? It's been like 3 years!
|09.24.15||Lazer Team||Matt Hullum||The Rooster Teeth movie. I kind of new what to expect of this going in, but I wanted to give the local guys the benefit of the doubt. It kind of sucked. I mean, I guess it's admirable that they made a feature or whatever and there are plenty of visual effects for a relatively small budget, but you know... For as much pride that Austin has in its film culture, you'd think we could make better movies. We SHOULD be making better movies, so if anything, films like this should be scrutinized to a higher degree rather than being praised just for existing.|
|09.24.15||Coz ov moni 2: Fokn Revenge||Fokn Bois||My first midnight was this crazy musical from Ghana. The two main characters rap and sing through the whole thing in pidgeon dialect that's half english and half whatever. It looked like there was very little crew involved, real Ghana locations and people, and I didn't really understand... let's say half of it. But the music was pretty good, and I followed enough to understand the broad strokes of what was going on, and it's always interesting to get a glimpse at a completely foreign point of view. I liked this one the most of the whole night. I should look up these guys on bandcamp.|
|09.25.15||Ruined Heart||Khavn||Day 2 started with this Phillipino movie mostly set to music with very little dialog. This was everything I was afraid Coz ov Moni would be. There was no discernible story for the most part and on the rare occasion that something would happen, it was really confusing as to what was going on. The one thing that I liked about it was that the first scene of the movie was kind of a roll call where each character steps forward and looks into the camera and gets a title card explaining who they are (Criminal, friend, piano player, whore, etc.). However, they couldn't even do that right because a central character (Godfather) gets his introduction 5 minutes later. This one really killed my energy for the whole day. Didn't like it at all.|
|09.25.15||Anomalisa||Duke Johnson, Charlie Kaufman||Don Hertzfeldt's new one played before this. I feel like there's quite a trend in science fiction these days for the future to be devoid of life and filled with clones or robuts. Anyway, I liked the short ok. It seemed to fit Hertzfeldt's blend of humor and oddity.|
The movie was that kickstarter animated thing with a script by Charlie Kaufman. I was a little surprised by how not-weird it was. The central theme of the story is well executed. I like it, but it was deliberately paced and further sapped my energy. I do get the feeling that if this were live action instead of animated then it would probably be a bit slow. Still, I liked it.
|09.25.15||Tale of Tales||Matteo Garrone||This is more or less a collection of fairy tales intercut with one another. It had an interesting cast (For the second time, John C. Reilly makes an appearance in an interesting role that should've stuck around longer). The scenery and costumes were really nice and pretty, but once again it had a deliberate, almost plodding pace that made staying awake an activity for me rather than a passive state. I feel like it's ok to fall asleep in the midnight movie, but I shouldn't be doing it at six pm. I am out of movie-watching shape.|
Anyway, this one was ok.
|09.25.15||Crimson Peak||Guillermo del Toro||So Tim League said in his intro that we were allowed to talk about this movie in generalities but there was a review embargo until October 13th. So hopefully I remember to do that. Until then, it was good; I liked it.|
Fuck it. If anyone thinks this is a legit review, I'll point them to my traffic reports.
The sets and costume design were really accomplished, as usual Del Toro's ghost design is great (if not a bit familiar compared to Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labrynth). The performances were great, but mostly what surprised me was that this is a full on grandiose "gothic romance" as Del Toro kept stating and I actually liked it. I definitely got notes of Rebecca here, but also stuff like Giant and Douglas Sirk. But there's also some trademark Del Toro moments that are really effective.
It was another slow burn but I had no trouble staying awake for this one. I liked it much more than I thought I would. It was really good.
|09.25.15||In Search of the Ultra-Sex||Nicolas Charlet, Bruno Lavaine||This was a French movie made up of old porn clips that were re-dubbed to make a silly story about how everyone on earth is taken by some sex craze that makes everybody fuck. In full candor, I was fighting sleep for the whole thing. So what I suspect was a pretty loose story to begin with loosened up even more with me dozing off a nodding out every few minutes. |
The stuff I liked about it was that they made some references which clearly make it a contemporary movie like Dancing with the Stars and Daft Punk, but you're still watching gross 70s and 80s porn actors with their hair and high-waisted underwear and natural bushes. (there were a lot of dongs but nothing erect which I guess makes this art instead of porn (or would this be considered X? (what constitutes XX anyway?))).
The other thing that I liked about this was when the guy over-dubbing everything would comment or make fun of the actual clip and incorporate that into the story, saying stuff like "then the matrix numbers effect but not as good," or "invaders from planet Wig" when there were a bunch of dudes with poofy blonde wigs on.
For the most part though, it was silly nonsense and it felt like it went on too much (which is rough since it was only an hour). There were two shorts that preceded it. One, Fuck Buddies, was ok but the girl in it was hot enough to make it like... halfway effective. The other one was directed by Bryan Poyser and it was pretty funny... about a teacher who mistakes his xanax bottle with viagara.
Man, I'm beat. Bed now.
|09.26.15||Doglegs||Heath Cozens||Day 3. This is a doc about a Japanese event where disabled people get to box or fight in a ring. Like most Fantastic Fest docs, this was really interesting and strives contextualize what could be seen at a glance as exploitation. It's a little reminiscent of last year's Little Kingdom but there's no hint of coercion or exploitation in what Doglegs seems to be about. While it looks shocking at first - an enabled person beating up on a disabled person - you quickly learn that the "bad" guys really care for the people that they're fighting and use the event as a way to empower the disabled guys and make them feel equal rather than coddled and pitied.|
The scariest guy I thought was the depressed guy. Everyone else that the film follows has some sort of physical condition but this one guy is pretty severely depressed and a hoarder. The film doesn't go too far with specific medical details but he seemed to have self-inflicted scars as well. I really felt for that guy.
A pretty huge turn in the film for me was when I realized that the announcer, who's been responsible for some of the most un-PC humor in the film, is actually the main enabled guy's wife. So it was really his wife calling him the Hitler of the disabled who will take all disabled people to gas chambers. That's some unconventional love right there.
This was really solid.
|09.26.15||Camino||Josh C. Waller||Zoe Bell plays a photojournalist following Columbian missionaries led by Nacho Vigalondo until stuff happens and thrills ensue. I was pretty blah on this. It didn't help that the writer said he whipped up the script in two days. A lot of threads don't really connect with much cohesion, the photography is pretty flat, and the score, while I liked the intent, was pretty grating and mixed too high in the theater. I still like Zoe Bell but I thought she'd be in a better movie. Oh, and don't get me started with the ending. Laughable. She swears to never take another photo again, then gets in an El Camino and drives off into the sunset!? blarf|
|09.26.15||Too Late||Dennis Hauck||John Hawkes stars in this LA neo-noir constructed from five 20-minute takes. They're out of order kind of like Pulp Fiction so we have to figure out where we are and what happened between takes.|
So, I like film as much as the next movie geek, but this movie seemed to really go out of it's way to call attention to the fact that it was shot and presented in 35. That length of each take matches that of a full mag, each scene cuts to black as if to accentuate the cigarette burns, and there's a lot of technical wizardry going on with cranes and steadicams and long lenses. Furthermore, the guy who intro'd this said that the producers refused to make a digital screener of the film and insisted that buyers watch it on 35. And also that they've had offers but are holding back because they want a long theatrical release like Magnolia. It seems a bit extreme to me.
So the first scene almost lost me. The dialogue was really stilted and the acting wasn't great and the camera moves were so deliberate that I felt like I was watching some student film trying to prove how savvy he is. Luckily, John Hawks plays a more prevalent role in the other scenes and I thought carried the dialogue much better. Plus there's a scene inspired by Julianne Moore in Short Cuts where a woman answers the door and spends 20 minutes with no pants or underwear on. That didn't win any points with the women in the audience (as I was walking out I heard someone talking with her friends saying, "I've never forgotten to wear pants when opening the door, have you?") but you know... pubes.
All in all I thought this was pretty good. It had problems, but it also had a couple moments. I still have a problem with these long-take movies in that you limit yourself from perhaps the most fundamental tool of cinema which is editing. It often felt like I was watching a play, although this movie did not suffer from other problems shared by filmed plays like limited setting and lack of movement.
So yeah, pretty good.
|09.26.15||Follow||Owen Egerton||Local favorite Owen's movie about a crazy girl and her unfortunate boyfriend. For a movie of this type (which I feel like I've seen several although none are coming to mind), I thought this was really solid. Unfortunately, it's also not my favorite genre so it kind of evened out to being pretty good for me. I do think it was very well made and it certainly kept me engaged, but the whole hide-the-body thing is not my favorite.|
So, I had intended to see Baskin for the midnight, but they moved up the starting time and my brain was too busy being exploded by the band Itchy-O to care about seeing anything.
For real. The Itchy-O marching band from hell/Denver... was amazing. I feel like there might have been just as many band members in the crowd as festival-goers, but having half the band walking among the crowd is a stroke of genius. It was creepy and bizarre and surprising and fun in oscillating intervals. The tiny women in black sheets writhing on the ground were the creepiest, although there were so many absurd moments in that 90 minutes of performance:
-seeing Noah get locked in a head trance with one of the dudes,
-when both the tiny women curled up against each of this one guy's legs and everyone was taking pics of him but he was just standing there scratching his chin
-the random guy trying to follow behind the dude with the gigantic bullhorn speaker strapped to his back, flinching and leaning back every time the speaker shrieked out noise (which was often)
-A similar dude standing right in front of Micah then blasting a sample of an elephant roar right in his face
-the crazy ass chinese dragon getting so close that i could see the eyelashes on the blinking lids as it tried to munch on a girl's chest
-watching this big guy jump back in terror as one of the tiny women in the black shrouds sprung forward at him and started coo-ing into his ear while rubbing on his belly
-Randomly looking behind me and seeing both tiny women writhing on the floor together, one of them going into a headstand for like a minute and a half.
-watching the crazy speaker dudes sneak up behind people and invade their personal space
-Watching a space blanket get torn to shreds above the seething mass of bodies in front of the stage.
-seeing one of the band members get propped up and crowd surf. This was in THE HIGHBALL!
-The demonic procession of flags and eerie drones that starting the whole thing off
-the Mad Max-esque dude on the giant tricycle riding through the crowd with speakers rigged up behind him.
Seriously, it was insane. I've never been to a Skinny Puppy show but this is kind of how I picture one of those going back in their heyday. I was seriously impressed.
Of course now I have to figure out how to go to sleep...
|09.27.15||Evolution||Lucile Hadzihalilovic||NOTE: I got too tired and stopped writing these notes day by day. The remainder is coming from the weekend after the fest ended.|
Day 4 started with this odd film directed by a collaborator of Gaspar Noe. It's very pretty with lots of underwater photography and gross-looking food and little boys who look alike and french women who look alike, but it's one of those movies with very little dialog so I kind of fought sleep a bit toward the end.
This is a common theme for me this year. I had long blinks and head nods for practically every film. I credit this to me being a pussy when it comes to film festivals these days. I really have no excuse since I had off work and got a decent amount of sleep every night. However, I could easily tell when I really liked a movie because I would stay awake through the whole thing.
Anyway, this was ok. It never really gets as intense that it maybe should, but whatever...
|09.27.15||Man vs. Snake||Tim Kinzy, Andrew Seklir||Full title: Man vs. Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler.|
This is like a sister film or spiritual successor to King of Kong. It shares several interview subjects (most notably american tie-wearing Billy Mitchel and Twin Galaxies referee Walter Day), but is about the high score of another game. Nibbler is like a cross between Pac-Man and that game Snake where the more he eats the longer he gets and the more cumbersome he is to control without eating his own tail.
This was great. Really great. Just as good as King of Kong in my opinion, but distinct enough to stand on its own. For one, i really love how there is no clear villain. Billy Mitchell comes off much more sympathetically here, as does Dwayne the crazy canadian competitor to our protagonist Tim McVey (not the terrorist). They also use some animation to really great effect. A highlight is during a telling of McVey setting the original high score where they use the talking head audio to drive the animation.
It's just as well-produced and structured as King of Kong, just as impactful (it got a little dusty in the audience when a certain meal of mac & cheese was mentioned, I wish the Alamo would have brought some out just then for everyone), and just as invigorating. Great movie
|09.27.15||Schneider vs. Bax||Alex van Warmerdam||This was about a couple hitmen playing cat and mouse with each other. It was kind of billed as a quirky dark comedy but I thought it had several plot and tonal problems that kept me from really loving it. Still, it wasn't bad and there were a few moments of good stuff.|
There were a lot of movies that wound up being more good than bad but somewhere in that realm of mediocrity. I'll take that over painfully horrible movies any day, but they are kind of hard to talk about it. This is one of them. From now on I'll tag these movies as MGTB because I can't be bothered to actually type out "more good than bad" every time.
|09.27.15||The Devil's Candy||Sean Byrne||So... I didn't see The Loved Ones, but in the Q&A the producer said that Sean Byrne's rewrite process is to swap out large themes or settings rather than just polish existing material. I think that process is what led to my problems with this movie because it feels like there are a lot of half- ideas here that never really resolve or connect.|
Mostly this was still MGTB, but it's pretty hard to genre-ize. It's kind of a haunted house, kind of a demon posession, kind of a serial killer, kind of whatever... but I'd have a hard time it's all the way any of those. As I write that, it sounds interesting but while watching it was kind of bothersome.
The real star of this movie is Pruitt Taylor Vince, whose imposing physical presence and crazy eyes coupled with his vulnerable child-like performance create a truly dangerous character. Ethan Embry was ripped and tattooed and all but felt kind of silly next to Vince.
|09.27.15||Klovn Forever||Mikkel Norgaard||The last movie of the day was the new Klown. In the South Lamar lobby, they had a giant banner showing the two main actors in a 69 position on red satin sheets. Both of their balls were on full display. Before the movie, David Strong took a picture in front of the banner with his balls out. So that happened.|
The FF screening of the first Klovn movie now lives as a hallowed memory in my brain. I remember crying from laughing so much. It's hard to live up to that, so much so that I haven't gone back to watch the first movie again in fear that I will be disappointed.
This one was good. I didn't laugh as much as I did in the first but that doesn't make this one bad. It's renewed my interest in watching the tv show. These guys are funny.
|09.28.15||Stand By for Tape Back-up||Ross Sutherland||Day 5 started with this... which is really more of a performance art/poem piece set to a spare visual than a documentary. The director examines the loss of his grandfather using scenes from a VHS tape with shared sentimental value, using the tape to form metaphors and milestones with his life and emotions and relationship to his granddad. For example, he plays the intro to Fresh Prince of Bel-Air like 4 or 5 times, rewinding after each time, and uses words that literally describe what's on screen but in sentences that talk about his grief and loss.|
Sometimes, you just stare at a paused frame of Bill Murray from Ghostbusters for five minutes. Other times you're watching a blue screen as the tape rewinds.
So... I don't really know if I'd call this a film. I mean i guess "documentary" is certainly open enough to fit this in its criteria, but it's really, like I said, more of a recorded performance art piece or extended multimedia poem. As such, it's deep and effecting, but it didn't really connect with me that deeply.
Sutherland performed live for the first screening of this, which I'm sure made it more commanding since he's there in person speaking.
|09.28.15||Zoom||Pedro Morelli||This... is several stories intertwined in a feedback loop. There's a girl who wants bigger boobs that's writing a comic about a guy who's directing a movie about a writer who's writing a book about a girl who wants bigger boobs... or something like that.|
Anyway, in the last five minutes all the worlds become aware of one another and it's animated/live action/written in a way that I found interesting and satisfying. However, the movie leading up to that point had a lot of problems. This feels better suited as a short maybe, or perhaps if each thread had more going on... I don't know.
Kid Koala did the soundtrack. I was expecting that to be a highlight but actually it was one of the things that bothered me most. There were a bunch of songs that were so completely goofy and on the nose that it completely took me out of the movie and made me groan. I think one song the lyrics were "b-o-o-b-s" and another one was like "got my mojo back," during a sex scene. Ugh.
|09.28.15||High-Rise||Ben Wheatley||The new Ben Wheatley, who's a total Alamo fav. This one is like a vaguely sci-fi lord of the rings where Tom Hiddleston moves into a new skyscraper and the power goes out and a class struggle between the top floor residents and those below ensue.|
It's pretty crazy. There's more than a little of Cronenberg's Shivers in there, without the weird under-the-skin monsters. Everyone kind of goes insane, but it's hard to tell if it's just a weird world or a normal world with weird people in it.
There's a new Portishead song in this. They cover Abba's "SOS." I really appreciated how the film new how awesome and rare it was for a new Portishead song to exist so the movie basically stops and have a 5-minute montage to let the audience listen to the song. It was great.
All in all, Wheatley definitely has a unique voice. I don't really know if I like it or not, but I respect that it's there.
|09.28.15||The Wave||Roar Uthaug||This was a by-the-number disaster movie from Finland (or Denmark. I really am sorry that all three of the Scandanavian countries are more or less interchangeable for me). People at the fest gave it some shit, called it Dante's Peak, but you know... I think that other countries are entitled to make popcorn movies too.|
Although this did follow the Hollywood disaster formula pretty closely, it was interesting for me to see it in a Scandinavian setting. The mountains and Fjords and peaks are beautiful. And every disaster movie has that great scene where the shit hits the fan, so this film is no exception.
Honestly, for day 5 this came as a welcome breath of mainstream accessibility.
For the midnight slot I went to the Fantastic Feud and watched a bunch of movie nerds act tough on stage while simultaneously failing to name any fucking Christopher Lee movies at all. That aside, it was pretty fun. Tim League was relatively calm, really the whole show went pretty smoothly... I'm not sure if I liked that or not. I did like Scott Weinberg's open hostility toward Max and his sentence construction. The crowd seemed rowdier than the contestants though and, sorry ladies, but for most of the game every point on the women's team came from some dude in the audience.
I guess I understand wanting to change up the teams, keep them current and somehow relevant to this year's fest (it was cool that Karyn Kusama was willing to get up there and test her knowledge), but honestly with folks like Matt Kiernan and Zack Carlson in the audience I found the knowledge base on both teams kind of lacking. I think only one or two questions were answered individually? I mean I didn't really know any of the answers either, but some years the feud was an impressive showcase of movie geekery. This year it seemed like an excuse for the audience to get drunk.
At one point someone threw ice chips at James Shapiro and he started drunkenly winging them back. In the fray, some guy with an expensive camera got hit in the head and he got PISSED. He stared down the dudes in the back until they saw him then proceeded to agg out, saying unique stuff like "what!?" and "fuck off!" The drunk guy in the back was all like "everyone here is having fun but you." Sigh.
|09.29.15||Remix, Remake, Ripoff||Cem Kaya||Day 6 started with this doc; full title: Remake, Remix, Rip-off: About Copy Culture and Turkish Pop Cinema. If this year's fest had a theme it was Turkish Cinema. They had a bunch of Turkish movie posters on display in the hall, the artword for the official poster and branding was a pastiche of elements taken from those posters, and they threw a "grand bizarre" one night at the highball where Elijah Wood spun Turkish 45s. They also had a handful of Turkish films as repetory screenings that I didn't see, but after watching this doc I wish I had.|
Along the same lines as Not Quite Hollywood, this movie basically attempts to explain the history of Turkish cinema and what factors led to them churning out crazy knock-offs and IP-thefts throughout the 70s and 80s. I.e. a lot of those movies that are kind of branded as the Turkish Superman or the Turkish Rambo.
I liked the doc. I'm always up for learning about a different culture's cinematic history. Toward the end, the film mentions a violent coup and some other historic events which effected Turkey on whole. I get that the film has to limit its scope somewhere but that and just the minor mention of when sex came into the movies and everyone started doing softcore or hardcore porn (it was hard to tell how explicity they were talking about) were areas I wished it went into a little more. But still, on whole it was entertaining and interesting.
|09.29.15||Dangerous Men||John S. Rad||So... both secret screenings kind of got out pretty early. Knowing that Crimson Peak was playing allowed some people to see other films since they didn't care to see Guillermo present it. On the other hand, when I caught wind that Drafthouse had finally gotten the rights and would be showing Dangerous Men as the second secret screening, it became my most anticipated time slot of the whole festival.|
I'll have to go back and read my earlier notes but I didn't think I'd ever get to see this again. This is one of those movies that you shouldn't even get to own. It belongs in the realm of boastful tales and treasured memories. However it's probably selfish to keep the rest of the world from knowing about this movie so I'm glad that Drafthouse Films will put it out there because it's really the perfect Alamo film.
In preparation for the screening, I dug up the promotional rap that John Rad made ten years ago and sent the mp3 to my friends. We were quoting from it all week leading up to this. As we left the screening, they handed out cassette singles with the main theme on one side and the rap on the B side. Unbelievable. If I remember correctly, neither of the screenings I attended ten years ago were well attended. This screening filled the two biggest auditoriums at South Lamar. That's like 400 people seeing this movie at once. Probably 390 of them had never seen it.
Anyway, the movie's still great. I really wish I was in the main theater and not the simulcast because I feel like we had a more muted reaction. It still got laughs and applause but not nearly as much as what I heard theater 5 got. I'd often catch myself laughing early because the beginning of a scene would trigger my memory of what was coming up.
Black Pepper. What exactly did he do wrong?
It was impressive how compassionate Zack's intro was to this movie. He has an incredible gift of describing what to most is an awful mess in terms that are loving and positive and technically not untrue. I kind of worry that that outlook (which is very much the Alamo way of looking at things), doesn't carry outside this town. Like, the Miami Connection screening here was a lot of loving fun, but in other cities do people gather just to make fun of it like The Room? I don't know. The Alamo's rejection of "so-bad-it's-good" works well here when Zack or Lars can explain it before the show, but I worry that Drafthouse Films ends up profiting in a somehow meta-exploitative way. I dunno, I guess the intent in which someone buys something is out of the distributor's hands, but still I wonder if other audiences are so kind-hearted as Austin's.
Anyway, this was incredible. I loved getting the chance to see it in a theater again, and it will be an automatic buy when it hits blu.
|09.29.15||The Martian||Ridley Scott||It was a hard choice to miss seeing something else in order to watch this 2 or 3 days before it's release, but I remember the Gravity screening from two years ago and how great it was and wanted to see this with the best possible audience. I kind of rushed to finish the book last week so I was really excited to watch this.|
So I do a lot of criticizing on here when it comes to Ridley Scott. It's true that I think he's overrated and has been for some time. I still think he's overrated but I will say that he's competant and, given good source material, a pretty safe bet. I think he did a good job with this. I couldn't help but think that the script was pretty dumbed down compared to the book but I asked Daniel, who hadn't read the book, and he said it still felt pretty science-y and intellectual. They changed the ending, but whatever. They also took out the storm, which I understand would've taken a lot of valuable screen time and heavy lifting to explain what the fuck is happening but still... Had this been an HBO mini-series it would've been cool to see.
So I liked it. Hopefully it does well.
|09.29.15||The Witch||Robert Eggers||Or should I call it "The VVitch" as it's written in the title card. This is like colony-era America where a family goes off to live on their own and gets tormented by a witch.|
So... Some movies in the fest I found that I liked less than most. High-Rise might be a good example where I recognize that it's unique and good but I didn't really enjoy myself in it. This movie is the opposite. From what I heard from my friends and those around me, most everyone thought it was good not great. Some of them were coming out of Green Room (the audience favorite of the fest) so that might be a factor. I really liked this. I mean I REALLY liked it.
There's a limited cast of fantastic actors (including a few Game of Thrones vets), absolutely stellar production design and black and white photography, and a straight-forward story that was really effective in communicating the isolation and fear that came with living out in the wilderness back then. If I had one complaint it was that the music was mixed a bit loud but it was used well and thoughtfully and not too heavy-handed.
I LOVE that there's actually a witch in this. It's not some bullshit twist or turn, not some fog-like abstract presence represented by stupid satanic whispering or jump cuts of women blinking.
And those twins. Ugh. The whole film unfolds beautifully. I didn't find it slow or dragging at all (I don't know why, it is deliberately paced but for some reason I was into this unlike most of the other films at the fest). The main girl gives a great performance, and the end is FANTASTIC. Man, I really loved this.
I also now get all the Black Phillip jokes made at the feud.
Jump to the fence post
Running in the stall
Black Phillip, Black Phillip
King of all.
Toward the end of the fest, someone posted a poll: Black Pepper vs. Black Phillip. Hard choice!
Today was probably the highlight of the fest since I really liked all four movies I saw. That's a great day.
|09.30.15||Liza the Fox-Fairy||Karoly Ujj Meszaros||Day 7 started with a swap. I had originally planned to see L'Affaire SK1 which was a procedural about a French serial killer, but was instead persuaded to see this Jeunet-esque Hungarian film about... trying to explain the plot kind of hurts my brain.|
There's a bunch of stuff in this movie but, at its heart, it's a romantic comedy. Not in the Hollywood sense of that term, but still. There's a ghost of a Japanese pop star who kills people in interesting ways, an odd duck police detective, plenty of colorful characters and a semi-surreal world in a faintly Amelie way. In some ways, it's like Amelie meets Delicatessen.
Anyway, I liked this one. Of all the films I feel like the still for this in the program book was the most misleading. It's taken from a goddamn dream sequence in the film and doesn't look anything like the rest of the movie. I'm glad people said it's good but if I had seen a trailer or spent more time studying the films on the schedule I might have given this more interest from the beginning.
|09.30.15||River||Jaime Dagg||A doctor without borders goes down a river in Laos and winds up wanted for murder and goes on the run. Ultimately, he crosses another river (can't tell which is the titular one) into Thailand.|
This movie had a pretty huge empathy problem for me. I feel like it was very much taking from Hitchcock in a "wrong man" situation but... accidental or not, the dude KILLS another dude. So am I supposed to be rooting for him to escape from authorities and get away with MURDER? Because I'm not. I'm kind of hoping he gets caught.
So that kind of ruined the movie for me.
|09.30.15||Men & Chicken||Anders Thomas Jensen||I didn't see Adam's Apples, but thought I might still like this. If nothing else, it gave me a chance to catch up with Kayla a bit before the movie. It's about... a family of weirdos with harelips trying to sort themselves out.|
This is an exceedingly weird movie, perfectly at home in Fantastic Fest. I'm not sure if I liked it or not... I mean... ugh, I don't really know what to say about it. It's just really odd and vaguely funny. MGTB.
|09.30.15||Evilspeak||Eric Weston||Kier-la Janisse came back into town to promote her new Spectacular Optical book: Satanic Panic. For the screening, they did a half hour presentation explaining the time in the 80s and 90s where America bacame obsessed with devil worshipers. They even showed clips from 20/20 and the Geraldo Rivera special during the height of the panic. That part was really great.|
The movie they showed was this early 80s Carrie rip-off starring Clint Howard. Like a lot of exploitation films, it's more extreme than Carrie in almost every way. The world's hatred toward Coopersmith is more extreme, the religious furor is more extreme, and the climactic gore is also more extreme. In this movie, Howard sort of resurrects an ancient demonic priest with the help of his Apple IIe, then pledges allegiance to the devil in order to kill all the bullies who spent the last 70 minutes making fun of him.
It's a really fun movie in that Terror Tuesday vein. It was pretty clear that the print was edited as most of the gore money shots were quickly snipped and replaced with reaction shots - that stole a lot of the thunder I think - but it was still fun to watch with a crowd.
|09.30.15||Green Room||Jeremy Saulnier||My day ended with an encore screening of Green Room, the festival's audience favorite film. This was getting dangerously close to overhype for me, enough so that I had started to actively avoid or dissuade talking about it until I could see it. I really liked Blue Ruin and pretty much knew I'd like this too, but I didn't want to go into it gauging it against unrealistic expectations.|
I think that worked for the most part. I couldn't help but immediately feel that I still like Blue Ruin more (I'll have to give that another viewing to see) because of a few very minor details at the very end of the film, but for the most part this is a tight, constrained film that does what it intends to very well and never drags for a moment. All the performances are great, the script assumes we aren't idiots, and the action/gore is superbly realized.
This is my favorite gore of the festival. It's what I like to call "realistic gore," in that there's no rivers of blood or anything but when violence does occur it feels like we get every ounce of horror out of that violence. Nothing's dumbed down for the camera. When speaking with Grant I was trying to come up with another director who was really good at this but all I could think of was David Lynch. I think the Coens also do this very well.
So yeah, this one is incredibly solid. Like I said, other than a few very minor details at the end (with Macon Blair's character), I liked everything about it.
|10.01.15||Daniel's World||Veronika Liskova||Day 8 (final day) started with this documentary about a pedophile trying to deal with his sexual identity and find acceptance in the world. The doc is very sympathetic and tries pretty hard to portray him as a victim of his own brain... which is fine.|
Honestly, I'm pretty sympathetic toward pedos. If the internet has taught me anything, it's that there are people turned on by everything out there. We very often have little to no control over what turns us on, you just hope that whatever floats your boat is legal and consensual. For those that aren't that lucky, they are in for a pretty tough life.
Now, that's separate from abusers and rapists. A line at the end of the doc proclaims that something like 80 or 90 percent of child abuse is perpetrated by people who do not fit the medical diagnosis of pedophile. This film's whole deal is that Daniel loves this boy so he'd never do anything to hurt him, including indulging in his own fantasies. That makes a certain level of sense, right? I mean when a guy hangs out with a woman he likes, she shouldn't be afraid that he's going to rape him at a moment's notice, right?
Yet there's still that shock value when you see his wall of photos of little boys. And the pornography involved is a whole other can of worms that the film doesn't touch on at all. So I don't know.. the doc itself is just ok... nothing spectacular. But the subject matter is interesting along the same lines as Doglegs and Little Kingdom and other Fantastic Fest docs.
Brian Kelley intro'd the screening and said we should talk about it afterward. I guess he meant that we should talk amongst ourselves afterward because the film ended and most of the theater just sat there waiting in the dark. I got up and left and heard more than one person ask "Aren't we going to talk about it!?" It's the last day, people. Talk in the lobby.
|10.01.15||Darling||Mickey Keating||This is a nice-looking black and white film where a female care-taker goes insane, kills someone, then jumps off the roof. It's very clear that the director was looking at Polanski movies like Repulsion and The Tenant for this. The problem is that both of those movies are much, much, much, much better than this.|
So... I got the feeling that the main actress couldn't really deliver dialogue or something because most of the movie is silent and when she does talk to people, the language is stilted and poorly delivered. Even Sean Young's cameo was pretty cringe-worthy. Mostly, this movie relies on inserted frames accompanied by really shrill and loud music cues. When the gore does start (which looks great in black and white), the music ruined it for me. And by that time I was completely disconnected, counting the speakers mounted to the auditorium walls and studying the film reels used in the lighting fixtures because that was more interesting to me than what was on screen.
This was bad. I really didn't like it. It was a long goddamn 78 minutes.
|10.01.15||Love & Peace||Sion Sono||Next up was the new Sono, which by now I expect to be weird and unique and charming. I got all those things. Perhaps this is unfair, but I was kind of hoping for a bit more. This sounds incredibly jaded and douchy, but a Sono film where a turtle gets flushed down the toilet and winds up in a puppeted world where an alcoholic homeless guy brews up speech and wish candy that lets discarded toys and stuffed animals talk and transforms the turtle into a giant turtle that gives hit songs to its former owner is not weird and unique enough for me!|
So... the sewer stuff with the old toys and the turtle didn't really do it for me. I think that's my problem with this movie. If I accepted that a bit more and had more fun with that then I think I would've liked this more. The other stuff, with the introvert guy who becomes a super huge star (based on 2 songs!?) and winds up in a shiny silver suit performing for millions was also a bit tame. However, the ending, where the beginning of the film comes back on a larger scale, was really great and connected beautifully. There is certainly a lot to love here.
|10.01.15||Bone Tomahawk||S. Craig Zahler||Which brings me to the closing night film which is a horror western starring Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins, and Matthew Fox as a posse looking for troglodytes that stole Wilson's wife. Unfortunately, Russell couldn't be here due to some injury (he's still cool in my book), but the other three were along with the director and some producers and whatnot.|
The movie was a lot better than I expected it to be (in that it was good and not crap). It looks and feels like a viable western except it has crazy cave-dwelling savages with self-mutilation make-up and lots and lots of practical gore and violence. One scene in particular (alluded to in the horror game Amnesia: The Dark Descent but seen in full here (wherein the person is held up by their feet and split down the middle)) is great fun. Also lots of lopped off bits and pieces.
I don't know why, but I didn't expect the title to refer to an actual tomahawk made from bone. I thought it was some euphemism or metaphor or just two cool-sounding words put together, not a literal item featured in the film.
Richard Jenkins is great. He's just as funny during the Q&A as he was in the film. And actually Patrick Wilson was also very personable.
My one regret is that I saved a seat for Kier-la who never showed up so in the end some random dude ended up bugging me about the seat until we let him sit down. Oh well.
Anyway, afterward, Daniel offered to drive Grant and I out to the closing night party which was held in Star Hill Ranch out off of 71. The ranch has a kind of western-themed street with maybe a dozen olden-looking buildings in a row. The Alamo, who did a screening of Serenity there the other night, set up camp, converting most of the buildings to a party atmosphere. The church played demonic DVDs on a projector, several larger buildings housed bars (along with the saloon of course), there was a mechanical bull and bb gun shooting range set up, along with a tattoo parlor for those that won the tattoo lottery and some brisket bbq in a long-ass line. The food went pretty quick.
We hung around a bit. I don't think any of us are really much for parties. We did see Tim League get up and announce the audience awards while they passed around cascarones (confetti-filled eggs). He said that when he announced the winner everyone should slam the eggs on each other's heads. Since mine was already leaking flour all over my hand and shirt I elected to distance myself from the fray and discard my egg, but several poor dressed-to-party ladies wound up with flour-white hairdos thanks to Tim's prank. He said he thought it would be a good idea and make everyone look like the trogs from Bone Tomahawk. He got pelted.
After that we drove back to the South Lamar garage where we split up and headed home. Thus endeth my Eleventh Fantastic Fest.
Recapping a bit, I wound up hanging out almost exclusively with Daniel Kerr, Chris Popkoff, Grant Peterson, George Hickman, and Justin Lincoln which made it a lot of fun The facebook group chat that we were all in let us comment and share schedules which made getting decent seats at most screenings a breeze. Victor and Mark didn't make it, Jarrette was out of town, I saw Eric and Aaron briefly but never really hung out, and of course got my annual dose of Kayla.
My top 5 (in no order because honestly they're all tied for first):
-Man vs. Snake
-Itchy-O (I know it's not a movie. shut up they were great)
My bottom 5:
1. Darling (intolerable)
2. Ruined Heart (at least there was music)
3. Zoom (saved by its last five minutes)
4. Camino (meh)
5. River (he MURDERED a guy!)