|09.28.17||Alamo South Lamar||This Screening is part of event: FantasticFest 2017|
The closing night film this year was the new Alexander Payne where people can be shrunk in order to extend the Earth's resources and save us from catastrophic climate change.
The novelty of the conceit is cool. All the stuff they do that deals with scale was awesome and funny. There's also a surprisingly deep cast, with familiar faces popping up all throughout the film. Unfortunately, it pretty quickly leaves the scaling behind and gets pretty message-y... except then I feel like it delivers a pretty muddled ending. Overall it never really came together for me. It felt much more like About Schmidt than Sideways.
OK, the closing night party was in an AFS sound stage, which I think would've worked ok if it was a bit cooler and hadn't rained. Instead, the roof leaked from a dozen places making the inside a muggy sweatbox with wet floors. There was an "arcade" or like 3 games, a food truck with bread-heavy tortas, a single carnival ride, and a stage for the band Itchy-o to use when they felt like coming out. It was a strain to stand around sweating waiting for the band to start, but I toughed it out to see the crazy mayhem that really impressed me two years ago. I did feel a tiny bit of diminishing returns this time since I'd kind of seen it before, but it was still cool and loud and crazy. I left just before the end of their set though.
So that's the fest. Overall I felt it was a good-not-great year filled with good-not-great movies. The highlight was hanging out with Daniel and Chris and Grant and Justin and seeing old friends like Kayla, Eric and Aaron, and Austin again.
Now, I'll spend a few long paragraphs talking about all the shit that happened this week that sucked. When the program went up online and we could read the film synopses, Devin Faraci's name appeared on a couple of the write-ups. George started a facebook discussion about this which lead to Tim League making an announcement that he had hired Devin back on to write copy for drafthouse.com (not Birth Movies Death). This news was picked up by The Hollywood Reporter which also used quotes from an unnamed ex-Alamo employee (we'll call this person "TS") saying that League's announcement was somewhat misleading because Devin had been on the payroll for months. Really it was more like instead of getting fired from Birth, Movies, Death, he was just transitioned to writing anonymous copy for drafthouse. This sparked more controversy which led League to first defend his actions by saying he believed in second chances but then quickly added that Faraci was now no longer employed at all. This (really it was the fact that Devin was re-hired without his knowledge) led Todd Brown to step down as a programmer for Fantastic Fest. This led Scott weinberg to say he won't be here. This also led to Fox pulling the opening night film (Three Billboards in... somewhere) and Grady Hendrix to cancel his planned 2 presentations. In some of the comments on George's facebook discussion, several people hinted that other people in the community had done far worse and it was time they were exposed as well. Coincidentally, the Alamo removed aint it cool news from the list of festival sponsors and it was rumored that they had asked Harry Knowles not to appear at the fest this year. Ex Alamo employee (who left in a contentious way I might add) Tim Doyle pounced on this and pushed it. A couple days into the fest, Jasmine Baker came forward and accused Harry Knowles of groping and other forms of sexual harassment in previous years. This led to Eric Vespe and the dude who went by Capone to leave aint it cool. A day or so later, another ex alamo employee posted on facebook a long history of having to put up with creeps in the audience, citing one person in particular as "creepy but harmless" and how Tim League had him sign some legal waiver saying he'd be banned from the theater if he did it again along with several other instances of her reporting issues and Alamo management doing nothing. Oh, also another person had saved a screenshot of an email they sent where they disclosed that Devin made some untoward advances and Tim League wrote back asking not to make it public knowledge. So also, several other women come forward and call Harry Knowles a predator. Jasmine also outs David Strong as the "creepy but harmless" guy and calls Eric Vespe a complicit creep for not quitting sooner. I heard David Strong, who had been at the fest while all this was happening, was asked to leave and escorted off the premises. Meanwhile, Todd Brown and Tim Doyle are harping on the fest playing movies like Bat Pussy and the Ed Wood film as bad form and bad optics. And Jasmine announces that she will start a non-profit to affect cultural change. Finally, the Alamo pulls a previously-scheduled screening of Blade 2 because one of Harry's old reviews (where he talks about Blade 2 by calling Guillermo del Toro good at eating pussy) is making the rounds and doesn't want to court any more scandal.
So I think that's everything news-wise that happened. As a festival-goer, the net effect was that I didn't get to see several things that I wanted to see and ended up feeling a little exploited by all these people who were not at the fest twisting events out of context to suit their purposes. Particularly with the AGFA stuff... Todd Brown has been a programmer at this festival for 10 years, he's programmed stuff waaay more offensive in previous years. Maybe there's some sort of temporary sensitivity that should come into effect because there's currently a spotlight on the Alamo but that's bullshit too. All the people who threatened to boycott the theater at the first sign of bad press are probably the same people who've completely forgotten about their United boycott for forcibly removing that guy off their plane. Cancelling the AGFA and Blade 2 screenings scream of weakness to me. I guess it's a lose/lose for them but in the long run I thought fantastic fest was a festival with balls and those have just been snipped because people are afraid of getting more bad press. There's also a mob mentality on facebook that I can't stand. No one talked about Revenge which was a rape/revenge movie playing the fest this year that contained a lot more violence toward women than either Bat pussy or the Ed Wood film had. Tim League definitely made a few mistakes by tolerating intolerable behavior from friends over the years which he is paying for now, but I felt a "blood in the water" atmosphere all week where it seemed like every day would bring some new tragedy in the austin film community. I think some of it must be transference because of our current president and how terrible a lot of global things out of our control seem these days, but it put a weird cloud over the week that I selfishly saw no reason why it couldn't wait a few weeks to address. I'm a white male so all of this doesn't amount to jack shit but whatever.
To conclude: my top 5:
-The Death of Stalin
-Brimstone & Glory
and my bottom 4:
-Brawl in Cell Block 99