Other Movies Seen By This Director (0)
|10.06.05||Alamo South Lamar||This Screening is part of event: FantasticFest 2005|
And so begins the first annual FantasticFest here in Austin, held at the best theater in town (Alamo South Lamar) spanning four days of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and post-apocalyptic film. Actually, they programmed too many films. There's 24 films being shown and only enough time to catch 19. Still though, it's a real treat and I have a feeling based on today's attendance that it being the first year gives those of us lucky enough to be around all the more glory. Sort of like being at QT1 or something.
Anyway, it was the first full-on perfect autumn day outside today. Never got out of the 70s, a brisk breeze constantly blowing through, not a cloud in the sky. I got to the theater about an hour early and got a choice parking spot right in front.
They had several doors to the lobby open creating a crossbreeze. Some of the AICN folks were already there, a few guys I sat next to all through QT6 and have seen at film events since then, and the Feast/Project Greenlight people were there to pick up their badges. Stan Winston had brought a model for the giant robot and Zorgon ship used in Zathura, which were on display in the lobby. Since this is the first year, I could actually buy my way into the cool-people circle and get a VIP badge which lets me sit down first, get into the party after the Zathura premiere tonight, and a free poster/t-shirt (in a SXSW bag with Exploding Dog artwork on it!!!). Of course, they have a special VIP poster that's different from the badass black poster i spotted last night but completely forgot to gank one on my way out, so I had to fork up ten more bucks to get the most badass poster. They also have a clearly-more badass golf-style shirt that i want as well...
After hanging out in the lobby and chatting with a few people, they casually let us know that people with cool badges could sit down. It seemed like everyone was in a rush to see this movie with Robin Williams instead of Strings... they are crazy. Strings was up there on my list of films to see when I sat down with the schedule and planned out what I'd watch when. I'd heard stark raving good things about this film and also that a 35mm print of it in the US is pretty much a miracle. According to Harry Knowles, the film's only been screening on film one other time in America...
So when the lights dim, Tim League, Alamo Owner and all-around cool dude, gets up and says that we are the most discriminating audience because this is the film he would be seeing right now and he's gonna try to sit with us and watch it if he doesn't get pulled away. of course he got pulled away. It made me wonder for all the cool stuff he puts together and hosts and documents and stuff like that, his life must be so hectic that he probably doesn't get a chance to just sit and watch movies much anymore. I'll come back to this at the end of this entry.
Before the film started, they showed a short called Moongirl directed by Henry Selick, who directed Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, and the animation stuff in Life Aquatic. Well, apparently he's converted to CGI for this short, a 9 minute story about a boy who's fishing by moonlight with his pet squirrel and manages to hook this massive catfish constellation of stars. The celestial fish drags him up out of Earth and flings him at the moon, crashing through the canvas exterior into the hollowed out core where this huge merry-go-round lays dormant. Immediately, jagged monsters made of shadow try to get in but a girl and her pet (giant) cat keep them at bay while they repair the hole. There's a bit of talking and some stuff with lightning bugs and a pretty cool little action scene where the shadow-monsters try to steal the lightning bugs but they get them back and eventually use them to fuel the merry-go-round. It's revealed that the boy is now Moonboy and must stay there until the next kid comes flying up with fresh lightning bugs, that fresh lightning bugs is, in fact, what makes the moon light up.
I enjoyed this short more than I thought I would. I really liked the childish simplicity of logic here mixed with ideas that would be really really tough to pull off with any medium but CGI. They Might Be Giants supplied the score and the character design reminded me a lot of Psychonauts, where the kids have huge eyes and wide heads but are very personable and quirky.
Then Strings started. Put simply, this is a marionette epic. What elevates it to a really great movie is that the marionettes are aware of their strings, and in fact have a whole mythology set up around them, tying their mortality directly to them. At once they acknowledge that they are dependant upon these spiritual/physical links to the heavens up above but also act with complete free will like any live-action character in any other story. There's a whole system set up around the strings that constantly creates striking visuals or cool ideas... you see how marionettes are born, how they get hurt, heal, grow old, and die. There's a military general character who is very tough and therefore has much thicker strings than other people. A newborn baby's strings are whisper-thin. It's a really great use of the medium. On the other hand though, there's a really epic story going on with these characters, involving a war between factions, political intrigue, backstabbing, love, etc. etc. This could be Dune but with puppets, Hamlet but with puppets, or Braveheart... but with puppets. This mixture makes everything very strange and beautiful. The director keeps coming back to these landscape shots of beautiful scenery obscured by thousands and thousands of strings, each leading down to control some marionette. it's really striking to see. I was really impressed with it.
Afterward Harry wheeled around and geeked out on it a bit with me. We both loved how the city gates and prisons are nothing more than bars that raise, since characters can't pass under them, and how the ability to jump really high is like a super power. Very cool concepts based on what life would be like if you had strings going from you straight up to heaven. None of the buildings have rooves or anything, and in the final climactic battle when they set a forest on fire, just pushing people against them is lethal because the flames catch their strings on fire. There's an absolutely beautiful shot of the army getting mowed down seen only by strings burning and breaking and falling.
Here's another cool thing. Tim mentioned that VIP people didn't have to leave the theater before the next show, which was the Zathura premiere. Sweet! I have the best seat in the house! Except, since there was security there to check for cameras or recording devices, they made us leave but we got directly in front of the line and got to go right back in. I feel so special.
When i was out in the hall, Kier-la approached me and asked me how the movie ended. She said she was watching up above (presumably in the projection room) but got called away during the end. Again, I wondered how often these really cool, super-film literate people get time to just sit and enjoy a film. To be perfectly honest, when I first saw Kier-la i didn't think she was attractive at all. I don't mean this in a bad way but she seemed to me to give off a very lesbian feel. However, when I approached her to ask about her horror trivia game, I was struck by how cute she is. Her face is absolutely adorable. and now I'm finding that the more I talk to her, the hotter she gets. For real. It's not like... a "thing" or anything, I won't be stalking her or anything like that... yet.
It also kind of helps that she could kick my ass in any sort of movie trivia/conversation/debate/whatever. Explaining how the movie ended to her I actually got a bit nervous because I wanted to do it really well and be all interesting and emotive. Best to just stop typing at this point I think...
Randomosities from my notebook:
-Now that I know that Sunny from Alamo downtown has a kid and a guy, my favorite waitress there is blonde Carrie. I also have a favorite waitress at South Lamar... she's been my favorite since like the second time i went there for the Godfather feast but I never knew her name till tonight. what is it? Carrie!!! OMG star-alignment coincidence-or-is-it!