Jenn Brown's blog

Fantastic Fest Daily Dispatch #4: Barbecues and Imaginariums


FF09-Smittys Run

I was privileged this year to go on one of the special outings for filmmakers and press, the Smitty's barbecue run. It's a drive out to Lockhart that will enlighten non-Texans about the religions of the barbecue, and how good juicy meat can be without drowning it in sauce. Tim is very passionate about barbecue and after tasting a sampling of Smitty's meats, I understand.  We ate near the fires, so some of us were talking about it being an alternate spa treatment; pores cleared by the sweat of the smoke fires, and lips moisturized by the grease from the meat.  All around carnivorgiastic.

I only made it to three screenings today, but there's that whole quality/quantity thing.  The first was the world premiere of Down Terrace. The three filmmakers in town for it, director/co-writer Ben Wheatley, star/co-writer Robin Hill, and producer Andrew Starke. I keep running into the guys (we have a mini British invasion again this year). They were needlessly nervous about the first ever theater screening of it; they themselves had never seen it on the big screen.  I wasn't quite sure what to make of it, but it was funny, caustic, and dark. 

Fantastic Fest Daily Dispatch #3.5: Mid-Fest Reviews and Previews


It's the halfway point of the official Fantastic Fest. There has been so much going on it's hard to keep up with it.  But I'll try to catch you up on some of the films that have played, and will play again, as I recover from a barbecue run.

If you haven't picked your film for the the 4:40 pm time slot, I recommend Duress.  Indie veteran Martin Donovan (Saved!), who's not shy about taking unsettling roles, manages to capture the complex emotions of a man who's lost his balance, yet still has a survival instinct. 

Down Terrace

Richard (Donovan), a recent widower due to suicide, is struggling to raise his daughter when he crosses paths with a killer. After becoming an unwilling participant in the killing spree, and despite being kept off balance by a sociopath, Richard will do anything to to protect his daughter.You might also recognize Billy Wirth from Lost Boys as the detective. 

My next film to see is the world premiere of Down Terrace, about a dysfunctional family of crooks. If you didn't get in to tonight's screening, it also plays on the the 30th.  Mandrill is a world premiere as well. 

Uwe Boll's latest, Rampage, is also playing tonight, and dare I say it, it's almost good. That's high praise. Seriously, it's different from his other films, although I haven't seen Postal to compare that one. Personally, if it was a short, it could have been brilliant. The plot is neatly summed up in the title. 

Fantastic Fest Daily Dispatch #3: Skarsgård, Metropia and the Feud


FF09-Alexander Skarsgaard-a by you.

Alexander Skarsgård is a consummate gentleman. The True Blood star --who lent his voice to competition narrative feature Metropia -- flew in for the evening to support director Tarik Saleh. There were no handlers protecting him from a swarm of women, several of which were very demonstrative. It was kind of embarrassing to watch. After a nearly 30-minute Q&A, and at least 30 more of autographs and pictures, he managed to make his getaway.

Skarsgård and Saleh ended up over at the Highball, and while the crowd was much better behaved, it was hard not to get caught up in the fervor, although only one woman was clutchy at that point. The man handled it very graciously, and my Grandma would be impressed with his manners; he stood up every time someone approached him. And he was constantly approached.  He shook hands with me no less than a dozen times. It was fun watching people watch and talk to him.

Even though Skarsgård (Zoolander, Generation Kill) won't be at the second screening of Metropia, I highly recommend the film. My screener only had the first 30 minutes and I was hooked. The detail is incredible, and the animation is outstanding. I think it's my favorite film of the fest so far, as I found it mesmerizing.

Fantastic Fest Daily Dispatch #2: Drawn and Quartered with Goats


Michael Bassett, by Jenn Brown on Flickr

It's nearly the end of the first full day of Fantastic Fest, officially day #2, but unofficially day #3, and where am I writing this up? Why, the Highball of course, with a view of the dance floor and the bar, where the servers and some of the bar staff are wearing happy jackets. There is a lot more staff working, and now there is table service for drinks and some menu items.

Unfortunately, if you showed up before the "Sake, Shochu and Karaoke: Meet the Japanese!" officially started, you were SOL for drink tickets.  I wasn't told that when I came in and was overly greeted by two overly cheerful people at the door, and at least two other versions of what was going on were told to other people (one within earshot of me). Or they just didn't like me.  A lot of non-badgeholders showed up, and it got really crowded, so I'm finishing this at home.

Fantastic Fest Daily Dispatch #1: Paranormal Battle Stags


Gentlemen Broncos Red Carpet, by Jenn Brown on Flickr

That stag at the top of yesterday's dispatch? Little did I know it was actually a Battle Stag. From Gentlemen Broncos.  Wow.

This is going to be an exhaustive festival, I can tell already.  Two parties at the Highball, and I'm really impressed. I finally met a lot of people I should have already know, and caught up with some old friends, too. Yeah, and I saw a few movies.

The crowds were crazy as everyone had to pick up tickets for the first day, but it went much faster than I expected. This year, no grabbing of tickets; it was all online at the box office. Very fast, efficient, and with numbers you could read.  The PA system for calling the boarding numbers was a little dicey for outside, but it worked fine indoors. 

Fantastic Fest Daily Dispatch #0: An Early Start


Highball, deer

You didn't think Fantastic Fest really wouldn't start until today, did you? 

Not only was badge pickup at the Highball on Wednesday night, the Highball ended up serving drinks to a crowd that just wouldn't leave.  Oh, are you in for a good time this year.

Some folks were going to a special pre-FF Austin School of Film fundraiser with Cabin Fever 2 with some of the cast, and others to a press/sneak of Zombieland. I can't tell you too much about Zombieland yet, but if you like zombies, you'll probably enjoy it, and a raucous Paramount crowd with cast and crew in attendance? I suspect it will be a blast.

Fantastic Fest Guide #3: Newbies and Non-Badgeholders


Fantastic Fest 2008: Awards

Are you a Fantastic Fest Newbie? Check out our Fantastic Fest Training Series, the rest of our Fantastic Fest Guides, and read on for info on some of the more confusing elements of attending the best and biggest genre film fest in the world. 

Shakey Face Explained. One of the great things about the Alamo/Fantastic Fest folks is their love for the ridiculous and purely fun. Only they would do something as silly as taking pictures of a shaking face, and turn it into a contest.  Last year, a prize was awarded for the best Shakey Face badge picture. While not everyone can do them, the results are definitely conversation starters. 

A full explanation of how to do a good shakey face is available from the individual badge registration links, but you can see three new examples of what it looks like online, in slow motion glory, with Zack and Tim in one video, and Cal Smith in another.  If you want to be the King or Queen of Shakey Face 2009, consider these tutorials, as the top finalists will have a live slo-mo shakey face-off.  I take no responsibility for you choking on food or drink when you watch, so be warned. 

Fantastic Fest Guide #2: Finding Local Food Options


Hey Cupcake! by Jim Nix on Flickr

It may seem strange, but there are times when you want a change of menu as well as venue during Fantastic Fest, even with the variety of choices at Alamo and Highball. We're not the experts on every local eatery, but we've got the resources to help you find what you're looking for, and some local eateries deserving of your attention. We'll start with general tips and work our way down to specific suggestions.

Decisions, Decisions.  There are several sites that can help you find places to appease your food cravings, including local publications Austin Chronicle and Austin360, and websites Dishola, Urban Spoon, Chowhound and Yelp. If you're interested in Texas restaurants outside of Austin, check out Texas Monthly. When looking for restaurants near Alamo, look in the 78704 zip code.  Note that the Slackerwood Venue Guide has a map link for each venue page.

Go Local. Austin has this nifty little thing called the Go Local card. Businesses participating in Go Local Austin offer discounts to cardholders; the Alamo Drafthouse offer is 10 percent off with purchase of $10 or more on food and beverages, which can be quite a savings over the course of a week-long festival.

Fantastic Fest Guide #1: Venues and Transportation


Fantastic Fest 2008: At the Alamo

Earlier this year we did a survival guide for SXSW, which has some valuable tips in it, but there's plenty we can say for surviving Fantastic Fest. This is a guide just for venues and transportation during the fest. 

Fantastic Fest basically has three venues: Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar as the primary venue for films, the Highball for the social side, and the Paramount for the gala screenings. Alamo and Highball are less than a hundred yards away in the same retail plaza.  It takes me less than two minutes to walk between the two. It's over a mile to the Paramount, which may not seem far, but most people will find it exhausting to walk.

Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar has six screens ranging in capacity from 87 seats to 220, all with 35mm capability. Two theaters are also equipped with Sony 4K digital projection (one large theater, one smaller). There will also be HD projection available during the festival.  While South Lamar is not the original Alamo Drafthouse, it has become Festival Central, and for Fantastic Fest, three screens or more will be dedicated for the festival. Tableside food and drink including beer and wine is available, and the food is freshly prepared. Your waitstaff is well informed and can answer any questions the menu doesn't. 

Movies This Week: Horse Boy, Cold Souls and an Anvil


The Horse Boy

Isn't it nice to have weather that's not in triple digits?  The weatherman says that while we're going to get more rain, it shouldn't be like the torrents that caused a blackout last weekend.  And plenty of movies to see.

New Releases

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs -- Very kid-oriented;  it gets very repetitive. Still, it has some charm, and kids will likely love it. I think I would have preferred a short-film version.

Cold Souls -- Paul Giamatti stores his soul so he can perform a Chekov play, but there are complications. This metaphysical comedy about consumerism wasn't available for review before opening.

The Horse Boy (pictured above), directed by Austin-area filmmaker Michel Scott, is about a Texas couple who went to great lengths to heal their son's autism, combining their son's love of horses, shamanism and the neurology behind autism.  It recently played for a special screening at Alamo Drafthouse, and opens at the Arbor this weekend. 

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