Fantastic Fest

Fantastic Fest Secret Screenings: When Festivals Collide


Fantastic Fest 2008: David Wain and Paul Rudd

Secret screenings are a much-loved signature event at Fantastic Fest. Every year, four to six of these events are scheduled, labeled only as "Secret Screening #1" and so forth. They're the grab bags of the film festival -- you don't know if you'll get a glimpse of a world premiere with the filmmaker present, or an obscure Asian movie that hasn't hit the U.S. yet, or a big Hollywood movie that a studio is probably trying to test before release.

In the past, Fantastic Fest secret screenings have included the world premiere of There Will Be Blood with Paul Thomas Anderson in attendance; Mel Gibson turning up with a work-in-progress version of Apocalypto; the first screening of the post-Cannes cut of Southland Tales, with Richard Kelly attending; and regional premieres of films that played earlier fests, like The Brothers Bloom and Persepolis. This year, Secret Screening #1 was Robogeisha, and #2 was a version of The Men Who Stare at Goats that wasn't quite finished -- no credits attached, and in need of color correction. The third screening was Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus; the fourth was the Coens' A Serious Man.

Part of the fun, and a great icebreaker with people you meet at the fest, is gathering around trying to guess what the secret screenings might be. Some of the guesses are outrageous, and some seem outrageous until you get in the theater and realize that So-and-So was right.

But as much as I enjoy the Fantastic Fest secret screenings, I'm worried that they may be causing some bad blood in the Austin film festival community, and I'd like to explain why.

Fantastic Fest Daily Dispatch #6: Private Eyes and Crazy Racer Feasts


FF09-Private Eye QandA by you.

I'm so tired.  But I'm a bit tense. only two days left, and I can feel the start of Post Fest Depression wanting to rear its ugly head.  But there's two full days left. While there are still a lot of people attending, the numbers are dwindling, so you have a better chance of getting into stuff now, rather than later.

And before I forget, you can see the Fantastic Fest Awards winners online, and several have additional screenings in the next couple of days.  And yes, VIP badges for next sold out even faster than last year. 

Fantastic Fest Daily Dispatch #5: Scrappy Tim League vs Uwe Boll



What did I do yesterday? Well, I got nearly 6 hours of sleep, which made it easier to stay up late.  Yet I managed to make it to four and a half films, and catch a glimpse of Scrappy Tim League take on Uwe Boll in a boxing match and walk away to tell the tale.  

The first I can't tell you about. I'm sworn to secrecy until opening day. But many festgoers will likely be filling a theater for it later today. I also caught Bronson, House of the Devil, Terribly Happy, a special press screening of Trick r Treat and part of [REC]2.

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 Welcomes Filmmakers, Texas Style


Fantastic Fest Filmmakers Shotgun Event

Every film festival welcomes filmmakers who attend in support of their projects, but Fantastic Fest offers an unique experience for visitors from the film industry. Tim League, founder of both the festival and Alamo Drafthouse, presents various events that reflect Texas, including a filmmakers luncheon prepared by Chef John Bullington and sponsored by the Texas Film Commission, BBQ runs to Smitty's and Muellers, and the popular annual shotgun event.

Filmmakers from as far as New Zealand and Japan participated in the event this year, which took place at the Capitol City Trap and Skeet Club. After donning safety protection and listening to a thorough safety orientation from experienced shooters, the guests took turns at a walk-through sporting clay course. Each shooting station simulates different hunting situations, and it was interesting to watch the different techniques. Even the novices had a great time on the course, and everyone was cheered on.

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.

Photo Essay: 'Gentlemen Broncos' at Fantastic Fest


Paramount marquee

Last night, I worked the red carpet for a premiere of Gentlemen Broncos, the opening-night film for Fantastic Fest. Gentlemen Broncos is a comedy from the director of Napoleon Dynamite, Jared Hess, who wrote the movie with Jerusha Hess. They were at the screening along with several of the film's stars. Here are some of my favorite photos from the event.

A long line formed at the Paramount of Fantastic Fest attendees and people who had just bought tickets to this movie. It was a good audience -- I can't tell if it was a full house, but from the front of the theater, the balcony looked pretty crowded.

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. 

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