Goodbye Fantastic Fest, hello aGLIFF

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Fantastic Fest ended on Thursday night. aGLIFF (Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival) started on Friday night. I'm simply thankful they didn't overlap, as I have covered/am covering both for Cinematical. None of my aGLIFF reviews have gone live yet -- expect to see one or two on Tuesday, and a few more throughout the week. Hopefully I'll have time to post a few notes and observations here as well.

I promised you Fantastic Fest photos, and then the Cinematical editors asked if I would publish the photos there. They pay me, so check out my Fantastic Fest photoblog entry for the best pictures I took. There are still a few left that I'll probably post to Flickr soon -- I'll be sure to let you know.

All my Fantastic Fest reviews for Cinematical are published, so here's the list:

I'm reviewing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, Fantastic Fest's opening-night film, but that review won't go live until the movie releases in theaters this Friday.

I also saw Pan's Labyrinth, Shiva, The Host, Piano Tuner of Earthquakes, and Severance, all of which I'd like to review either here or at Celluloid Eyes. And who knows? Perhaps someday I will.

Fantastic Fest 2006 in Pictures

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Darren Aronofsky & Harry Knowles

Fantastic Fest 2006 is over, but you can check out my pictures and add your own over at the Fantastic Fest Flickr group. (Flickr is free and monkey-easy to use.) Above you see Darren Aronofsky and the omnipresent Harry Knowles after last night's screening of The Fountain, which I quite enjoyed. I'm still recovering but there will be more coverage of this year's FF films and events in the coming week right here on Slackerwood.

Fantastic Fest: Pan's Labyrinth and other Austin festival news

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Pans LabyrinthAmeliorating somewhat my lingering feelings of selfish bitterness at having to forgo Funky Forest in favor of Apocalypto, tonight's super-secret screening at Fantastic Fest at least had the advantage of being an actual genre movie: Pan's Labyrinth. Everyone in the audience seemed to know that we'd be seeing P.L. before they walked into the theater, and emcee Harry Knowles acknowledged that fact by calling it the worst-kept secret of the Fest. Knowles also delivered an amusing in-character version of an e-mail message from director Guillermo Del Toro who was unable to attend.

Fantastic Fest: Aphids in my shake and other stories

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BugEating and drinking at Alamo Drafthouse while watching movies, especially horror movies, can lead to some very weird moments. I ordered a chocolate shake during Bug, and it was the first time I'd had a shake at Alamo. The shake is one of the best I've had in Austin, rich and chocolate-y, and is served with a wide straw like the kind you get with bubble tea. It was dark in the theater when I got the shake, so I didn't get a close look -- I mean, shakes are shakes, right?

Turns out that Alamo's shakes are topped with these little chocolate/hazelnut candies, like M&Ms but smaller -- the size and shape of a sunflower seed, I think. I found this out by sucking a couple of them up in a straw ... at the precise moment in Bug when Michael Shannon's character held up his fingers, pinched together to trap a miniscule bug, and said, "Aphids!" Fortunately I quickly realized that aphids don't taste like hazelnut, or I would have sprayed shake all over Chris and Blake.

In other Fantastic Fest news, I've seen two films so far in which someone is impaled on a garden gnome, two in which someone gets stuck in a bear trap, and a surprising number of horror films with strong female leads who do more than merely scream a lot.

Cinematical has posted my reviews of Tideland, Frostbite (my favorite film so far), The Hamster Cage, and Gamerz. More reviews are coming soon, but in the meantime, here are some quick summaries:

Pix from Fantastic Fest and few quick words

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Fantastic Fest 2006The Fantastic Fest screening schedule is kicking my ass, but I've taken a few decent photos for your perusal and here are a few super-mini-capsules up to tide you over until the next lightning round.

More pleasant surprises: Simon Says appears to be very, very bad in the first ten minutes but if you can jump on board it's one of the most entertaining flicks at the Fest. Crispin Glover wigs out for about ninety minutes as twin psycho killers Simon and Stanley, and the rest of the cast blunders around the movie like the cast of Scooby Doo 90210, minus the dog. Q&A with the filmmakers was both revealing and amusing.

The Host was probably the film I was looking forward to the most; you could probably have guessed that the co-founder of a site called Stomp Tokyo was ready to dig the token giant monster movie. The Host delivers on the giant monster action (think Graboids, not Godzilla) but it is a fundamentally different picture than the one I expected based on the trailers. I'm not as head over heels in love with it as emcee Matt Dentler professes himself to be, but it is a damn fine creature feature.

A late-night showing of Severance was probably the biggest and most pleasant surprise for me of the week thus far. An uncannily smart script combines with professional production and a talented cast to assemble the most satisfying horror film I've seen this year. It's being compared to Shaun of the Dead (mostly, I suspect, for its British origins) but for my money it's a better movie.

That's all I've got time for tonight but you can expect more thorough capsules of these and other Fantastic Fest flicks later this week.

Fantastic Fest Days 2 & 3: Lightning Round

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another craptastic cameraphone picture from Fantastic FestThe days are flying by faster than I can write about them -- with a noon to midnight screening schedule every day and a baby at home to care for overnight (my penance to my wife for leaving her with the nipper during the festival days), there's precious little time for writing. Here's a quick catch-up round of capsule reviews of what I've seen so far. I've mostly dispensed with plot synopses, but hopefully I'll be able to write about each film more thoroughly after the festival ends.

FF Super Secret Screening: Apocalypto

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So the super-secret added-at-the-last-minute screening was Mel Gibson's Apocalypto, with Gibson and the film's star in attendance. I feel so burned at having missed Funky Forest and so mystified that this historical action drama was presented at a genre festival that there's no way I could write objectively about it at this point. Suffice it to say my attitude towards surprise screenings has not improved. Fantastic Fest as a whole, however, is great. More tomorrow (later today) when I've had some sleep.

Random Austin film notes

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First of all, my weekly News from Slackerwood entry is now available at Cinematical, in case you're interested in non-Fantastic Fest events going on in Austin. It's hard for me to remember that other film stuff is going on this week, because I'm so involved in seeing FF movies, but there are plenty of good options for this week. After FF ends, I'll dive immediately into aGLIFF, which has some great selections this year. (And after that, I'm going to spend a week reading or vegetating in some non-cinematic fashion.)

In case you hadn't noticed, Slackerwood now has a second contributor: Chris Holland. You may remember Chris from such websites as Stomp Tokyo and Blue Glow; he also posts to the Austin Film Festival blog. I'm very happy he's agreed to post here, so we'll have more and better content on the site.

We're currently in Day Three of Fantastic Fest. So far, FF has been a lot of fun and not tiring. I've seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, Blood Tea and Red String, Tideland, Gamerz, and Frostbite. I'm about to go to Severance, and then hope to get into the super-secret special screening after that. Unlike Chris, I think the secret screenings are fun -- they provide a great topic of conversation with other festgoers ("Do you think it's 300?" "I bet it's The Prestige.") and also add a little excitement, like a wrapped present you get that's a funny shape and could be anything. Since I don't have a VIP pass, I may not get into the movie, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed. However (speaking of fingers), if it turns out to be Saw 3, I will probably not stay. One thing I have learned from FF this year is that I don't like movies with long slow gory torture scenes. But I still haven't learned not to eat during horror movies. A word to the wise: Tideland is also a movie during which you don't want to eat. Trust me.

Fantastic Fest Day 1: Pleasant surprises, small disappointments, and some nudity required

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Charles Band makes me an executive producerAs with the inaugural event, Fantastic Fest is a test of the moviegoer's will and tolerance for sleep deprivation. There's no arguing that the second year of Austin's genre film blowout is bigger and badder, but some of the changes may not be as welcome as they were intended to be. More about that, however, after quick reviews of some of the flicks thus far. In this roundup of first-day films: Oculus, Haze, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, and the Full Moon Travelling Roadshow.

FF: Why I shouldn't work the celebrity beat

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It's becoming obvious to me that I am terrible at spotting well-known faces in a crowd. Someone is always having to point them out to me: "Look, Bruce Willis is here!" (at a Guy Forsyth concert years ago) and "That was Eli Roth, didn't you realize?" I do pretty well with local film people -- I can spot Mike Judge and Richard Linklater, and anyone could spot Quentin Tarantino (okay, he's not "local" yet, but he's getting there). If you want a prime example of me not recognizing filmmakers, check out my Ann Richards story over at Celluloid Eyes. (Note that I recognized Richards.)

I was waiting in line last night for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning screening on the opening night of Fantastic Fest. The Alamo South Lamar lobby was decked out for the festival -- a coffin in one corner, various vendor tables around the room. Some people from a local haunted house, The Nightmare Factory, were passing out coupons and flyers. A few were in costume. A News 8 camera crew was there too, taking pictures of us in line. The Nightmare Factory brought in a guy dressed in an oversized demon costume with long, puppet-like hands, and the camera crew started shooting that.

Suddenly this older couple walked in -- looked very Texas, with the man in a gimme cap and the woman a little more dressed up than he was. They practically collided with the demon guy, and looked around the theater, seeming a bit disoriented. I felt terribly sorry for them. I figured they'd probably come to the Alamo to see Little Miss Sunshine, and had no idea that this whole weirdo festival was taking place. I wondered what they'd do next.

And then the News 8 camera crew rushed up to the guy, and he smiled at them and started talking to the reporter, and I realized that the man in the cap was R. Lee Ermey, one of the co-stars of the movie we were about to see. I wish I could have taken a photo, but I had to leave my camera in the car because there was security at the screening.

And damnit, I should have known Ermey, because back in 2003 during JournalCon Austin, which I helped organize, the big buzz among the conferencegoers was that Ermey was in the lobby of our hotel, and was the nicest guy in the world. You'd think that I'd done it on purpose and that he was one of the planned conference attractions.

But once again, I proved myself incapable of recognizing people I really ought to know. At least I recognized Jordanna Brewster at the Chainsaw after-party when she ended up inadvertantly standing about two feet away from me.

(I've got pictures from the after-party ... look for them this weekend sometime.)

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