Fantastic Fest 2012: Crushes Are Universal

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You've heard it multiple times -- Fantastic Fest is a world unto itself. This year was no different, with everything from dogs in tuxedos to wonder twins boxing over the merits of remakes. Those of us with two X chromosomes enjoy the odd and obscure just as much as our XY counterparts, especially given the sense of team spirit that builds around Fantastic Fest. We're all on this wacky journey together.

This solidarity is no more apparent than in the numerous shared "crushes" that attendees experience when faced with a gorgeous actor or talented filmmaker (not that a filmmaker can't also be gorgeous). It's not unusual to hear "That is a beautiful man" from the very straight guy sitting next to you while the woman on your right decides whether that actor's astrological sign would mesh with hers. Men and women of Fantastic Fest unite over the ogle-able and enviable special guests.

Take, for example, this year's visit by Karl Urban (Lord of the Rings) for the film Dredd 3D. Male and female festgoers flocked to the red carpet for a glimpse of the modern day Adonis. Men (as in the photo at top) saying, "Dude, It's Éomer and McCoy," and women (as in the photo below) proclaiming, "Oh my god, it's Éomer and Cupid." (Any Xena Warrior Princess fans out there?!) Urban's charm and swagger are not lost on either gender.

Karl Urban

It works the opposite way as well. Urban's Dredd 3D costar Olivia Thirlby (Juno) had the attention of both men and women alike. She's an attractive, thoughtful woman who can be admired for her beauty and her brains. I found myself ogling her adorable haircut, which I overheard more than one male festgoer commenting on. And it wasn't out of place to have XX and XY teams come together over both her hairstyle and her portrayal of Judge Anderson.

For many Fantastic Fest veterans, the visit by Alexander Skarsgard in 2009 was the first time these universal crushes became apparent. Skarsgard was in town to promote the animated film Metropia, for which he voiced the character of Stefan. Word spread fast among guests that the star of True Blood had actually come to our little festival and was quite approachable. When he decided to visit The Highball next door, men and women turned into meerkats, popping their heads up above the crowd to get a glimpse of the actor. And Skarsgard, the PR machine that he is, embraced the attention (as shown below), further solidifying his place in Fantastic Fest history.

Fantastic Fest, Day 3

Certainly, actors and filmmakers are embraced and loved at all film festivals. It's why we're there in the first place. But what is it about Fantastic Fest that aligns the attendees' crushes? It may be due to the unwritten contract we've all agreed to at Fantastic Fest that says we won't judge each other's tastes, no matter how odd or depraved. If you actively want to see Human Centipede and I don't, we might argue about whether it's a good movie, but I'm not going to call you a freak. This respectful and welcoming environment allows attendees to speak openly without having to self-edit. It allows for serious discussions about whether Chris Pine (Star Trek reboot) is more attractive than William Shatner (original Star Trek) even among straight married men.

Fantastic Fest 2012The theme of Fantastic Fest is also a contributing factor to this crush phenomenon. Genre film fans are obsessed (myself included) with the authenticity of an actor's portrayal. Many genre films present adored print properties on the screen. So, the look, costume and demeanor of an adored character is an important factor for the fan community. When debating whether Karl Urban's Éomer resembles the character's Numenorean heritage (dork alert!), his physical appearance is key. Men and women come together over his looks and acting ability, as well as his place within geek history. Seriously, this man is treasure trove of beloved genre characters.

But, who really cares about the "why"? All this means is that Fantastic Fest, for all its outward appearance of insanity, is just plain fun. You spend a week geeking out with 2,000 of your closest friends, debating the most minute details of your favorite films, embracing your weird side and showing out-of-town visitors why Austin rocks. This time next year, we can debate Henry Cavill's Superman.

[Photo credit: "Fantastic Fest 'Dredd' Carpet" and "Fantastic Fest 2009, Day Three" by J. Kernion. "Camilla Steiro and Karl Urban" and "Ed Travis with Scott Adkins of Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning" by Katy Daiger Dial. All rights reserved.]