The most highly-anticipated Austin film news question has finally been answered. No, not the name of the villain Benedict Cumberbatch plays in Star Trek Into Darkness. On Friday morning with this blog post, Fantastic Fest announced that its 2013 location will be the as-yet-unfinished Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline, which opens in July. Construction at South Lamar won't be complete in time to host the fest that's called that Alamo Drafthouse home for its eight-year history.
Reactions have been mixed but generally positive. Local festgoers most affected by the venue change will be those who live and work in south Austin, some of whom have already begun to plan sharing hotels and rides. Other Austinites, confusing Lakeline for the existing Alamo Lake Creek (which Lakeline will replace) have mistakenly complained about the inappropriateness of that spot.
In fact, Alamo Lakeline will have 10 screens, making it the largest Drafthouse to date -- and will have 35mm projection, which is necessary for many titles that screen at Fantastic Fest. As with The Highball and 400 Rabbits, Lakeline will have an adjoining bar, though a location for Fantastic Arcade and other festival events is still in the works. Hopefully there will be an adequate substitute for the much-beloved porch at South Lamar (pictured at top).
I moved to Austin from Seattle a little over four years ago. Before I moved to Austin I made sure of one thing: Did Austin have any decent film festivals? Seattle has one of the best festivals in the country and I didn’t want to go without that annual experience. After some quick research I found SXSW and the Austin Film Festival. Check and check! My high (in my mind) standard was met.
Along with some great film festivals, Austin houses one of the best theatre chains in the US of A: Alamo Drafthouse! As an avid moviegoer it took me all of five seconds to recognize the greatness of this theatrical experience. I think I watched five or six movies at the Drafthouse before actually moving here.
On one my many visits to the South Lamar theater in 2008, I noticed a blurb in the monthly guide advertising something called Fantastic Fest. I did a little digging and came up with one reaction: HELL YA! This is THE type of festival I wanted to attend. So I ponied up for a badge and a few short weeks later I experiences filmic bliss.
I was exposed to some of the coolest films in all of mankind! I watched Let the Right One In, Repo: The Genetic Opera, Donkey Punch, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Treevenge, Tokyo Gore Police, The Wreck, Not Quite Hollywood and many many others. I was also introduced to the mania that is Nacho Vigalondo (come to Fantastic Fest to see him in person). The festival was insane and I felt right at home. And over the years Fantastic Fest has become a real home with real family to me.
In the tradition of Pixar films, before Wreck-It Ralph plays a wonderful short that was included in the Fantastic Fest animated shorts program, Paperman. Directed by John Kahrs and produced by John Lasseter, Paperman draws inspiration from the classic film The Red Balloon, and in fact includes a red balloon to drive the point home. However, this is a more adult tale than the 1956 children's fantasy. A chance encounter on a train station platform leads a young man to the girl of his dreams in a whimsical and touching film that encompasses a similar range of emotion to the opening few minutes of Up.
Lasseter is also executive producer on Wreck-It Ralph, opening this weekend. An adventure worthy of the man who brought us Toy Story and a logical successor to that trilogy, Ralph was directed by Rich Moore, who made some of the most-loved episodes of Futurama, The Simpsons, and The Critic. Written by Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston, Ralph is the story of a videogame villain who after 30 years realizes he needs a change of pace and instead of being a bad guy, he wants to be just one of the guys. Setting out to prove his worth, Ralph sets in motion a chain of events that could wreck the entire videogame world.
This is a banner year for animated features. Brave, Pirates!, Madagascar 3, Frankenweenie, Paranorman and Hotel Transylvania top the list that is still growing and now includes Wreck-It Ralph which, if not the best of them, is certainly the most fun. The comparison to Toy Story is clear: Videogame characters living inside their cabinets move around freely after hours when the arcade is closed. And just as Toy Story featured familiar classics like Slinky and Etch-a-Sketch, Wreck-It Ralph includes characters from Pac-Man, Sonic, Street Fighter, Super Mario, Mortal Kombat, Q*Bert, Frogger, Dig Dug and a slew of others old and new.
In addition to a script that's as smart as it is fun, casting for the vocal talents is flawless. John C. Reilly brings the nine-foot-tall Ralph to life as a likeable and misunderstood character who is also easy for children to connect with. In her 40s, Sarah Silverman simply should not be able to voice a little girl as convincingly and adorably as she does. Rounding out the main cast, Jane Lynch, Jack McBrayer and Alan Tudyk each inhabit their vocal roles as masterfully as they do their onscreen characters. The actors performed much of their voice work as a group, allowing for improvisation, and the result is very natural, organic-feeling dialogue uncommon in animated features.
Visually, Wreck-It Ralph explodes on the screen with a myriad of imagery and distinct styles from each game, as well as the "real-world" environment of the arcade. An interesting feature is that while the characters can move between each others' games, they remain trapped inside the world of their cabinets, able to view and interact with the outside world only through the screen. This is just one of countless examples of the level of detail and thought put into this production, which shares DNA as heavily with Tron as it does with Toy Story. I kept looking for the Pizza Planet truck, but it is not to be found. Though this feels in every way like classic Pixar, including the presence of the short before it, Wreck-It Ralph is actually a Disney Animation film. But with Lasseter's involvement, Disney animation has delivered possibly the best animated film this year.
Updated October 12, 2012.
Slackerwood was all over Fantastic Fest 2012. Here's a list of all our coverage (after the jump) in one location.
What better way to wrap up Slackerwood's Fantastic Fest 2012 coverage than with a look at the two Austin-made shorts that screened during the festival, both of which I enjoyed? And what could be more fitting than to publish this article on the day that Fantastic Fest selection Sinister, written by an Austinite, opens in U.S. theaters? (I love it when I can find a reason that doesn't look like procrastination on my part.)
Dialogue is a very short short -- about one minute long -- from the Austin filmmakers pictured above. Christopher Palmer, Josh Johnson and Carolee Mitchell took a break from working on their upcoming documentary about VHS tapes, Rewind This, to shoot this unsettling conversation between a couple (Daniel Sergeant and Samantha Pitchel) about something unusual that's happening to one of them. The short film is set in a living room but it's not the setting that's creepy. It was a perfect fit for Fantastic Fest, is all I'm going to say. Johnson wrote and directed, Mitchell produced, and Palmer worked on post-production.
Fantastic Fest 2012 is behind us and the number one complaint that I've heard is about Fantastic Fest withdrawal. The closing-night party was filled with the same high energy and camaraderie demonstrated above by badgeholders for karaoke at the American Legion Hall. No one wanted the party or the week to end. Despite a few issues with the boarding pass reservation system and oversold badges, everyone seemed to have a wonderful time with an amazing and diverse amount of film content.
Credit for the memorable experiences that overshadow any problems should be given to the Fantastic Fest staff and volunteers -- not just the founders and film programmers, but the staff at the concierge desk and the box office and the army of volunteers manning the doors. I'd been unsuccessful in securing my traditional Superfan badge for 2012 and was quite prepared for a more difficult experience, expecting long lines and missed screenings. However, my personal experience far exceeded what I'd expected. The last minute additions of several screenings with seats for press as well as a handful of early morning press-only screenings meant that many more attendees were accomodated without feeling as if we were at a massive and crowded film festival. The well balanced program meant that I only missed a few films I wanted to see but I had no trouble finding an appropriate alternate selection.
Find out what I thought were some of the highlights of Fantastic Fest 2012 after the jump.
When I reflect on the big box office successes of the 1970s, I think most about the disaster film genre dominated by producer and "Master of Disaster" Irwin Allen. Airport, Earthquake, The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure are the most well known films where characters must overcome natural calamities to escape and survive in the wake of destruction. Most of these movies relied on various subplots based on relationships between the survivors.
This year's Fantastic Fest featured Aftershock, a fictional disaster movie that pays homage to and amplifies Allen's legacy while adding an overwhelming dose of horror. Based on actual events surrounding an earthquake that struck Chile in 2010, the film stars actor/writer/producer Eli Roth (Inglourious Basterds, Hostel). The movie was shot in many of the same Chilean locations impacted by the 8.0 earthquake.
The storyline came about after a conversation between Roth and Aftershock writer/director Nicolas Lopez, during which Lopez described not just the devastation of the earthquake, but also the aftermath of the disaster including chaos and secondary effects such as a destructive tsunami.
Roth and Lopez were in attendance for the premiere of Aftershock, including the red carpet pictured above. See more photos from the event after the jump.
The Frankenweenie premiere on opening night of Fantastic Fest this year was a learning experience for me: Taking pictures of animals is no walk in the park. Even the cutest and sweetest pets don't quite get the concept of standing still and smiling for the camera.
What were pets doing at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar? Frankenweenie played in several of the South Lamar location's six screens, and one of the theaters was devoted to adorable dogs and their owners. They were all encouraged to dress in red carpet attire -- humans and pets alike -- and the results were delightful. Fantastic Fest photographer Jack Plunkett snapped group photos on the red carpet, like the one above, but the following individual photos are my favorites out of the ones I took.
Frankenweenie opens in Austin theaters today in 2D and 3D -- read Rod's review to find out more about the movie itself. I don't think any local theaters will let you bring your dog, even though I heard the pets at the Fantastic Fest screening were miraculously well behaved in the theater.
If Fantastic Fest screens a movie made by women with females in the lead, I'll be there. (Okay, unless it screens at midnight or is excessively violent/gory. They don't call me the Film Festival Wuss for nothing.) So Besties was on my radar from the start, and it did not disappoint.
Sandy (Olivia Crocicchia) is a lumpish 14-year-old girl, teased mercilessly by classmates, who idolizes the girl next door -- her former babysitter Ashley (Madison Riley), a senior, blonde and perfect. When Sandy's dad goes out of town for the weekend, she asks if Ashley can "babysit" so she can hang out with the most popular girl in school. Ashley agrees, because what girl wouldn't want access to an empty house for the weekend? She parties, she ignores Sandy ... and then Ashley's ex-con ex-boyfriend Justin turns up, bad news personified. Ashley overreacts, and next thing we know, the girls have to deal with a dead body.
During my recent interview with Alamo Drafthouse programmer Zack Carlson, we spoke about the American Film Genre Archive (AFGA) and some of the found films that volunteers that support this nonprofit have saved. One of those titles is the zany 1987 martial-arts film Miami Connection, directed by ninth-degree black belt/philosopher/author/inspirational speaker Grandmaster Y.K. Kim, seen above demonstrating his skills before the movie screened during Fantastic Fest. The story's plot revolves around the members of the synth-rock band Dragon Sound, adult orphans and martial artists who fight criminals -- especially hated ninjas -- in the streets and back alleys of Orlando, Florida.
The special screening at Fantastic Fest 2012 included demonstrations by Grandmaster Kim as well as a reunion of the band Dragon Sound. Attendees at the afterparty pumped their fists and chanted with the band, many of them wearing sleeveless Dragon Sound t-shirts. See more photos after the jump.