Fantastic Fest

Free Fantastic Fest Films Tonight

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Just a quick FYI -- three popular films from Fantastic Fest this year are having encore screenings tonight at Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar. Anyone can see these films for free; you don't need a Fantastic Fest badge, just get there before the theater fills up. Here's the Sunday-night schedule:

4:05 pm -- Let the Right One In
7:00 pm -- Chocolate
10:00 pm -- Donkey Punch

I saw Let the Right One In last week and would absolutely recommend it -- it wasn't too gory for me. The title seems ill-fitting to this suspenseful and almost sweet horror film from Sweden about pre-teen love and vampirism. The writer/director of Cloverfield was just signed to do an American remake -- it's going to be difficult to capture the delicate relationships in the original film. I didn't get to see Chocolate -- it kept playing at midnight on evenings when I was too tired to stick around -- but hope to catch it at some point, if not tonight.

Quick Snaps: Elizabeth Avellan Can Chug

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Elizabeth Avellan

At the Fantastic Fest awards ceremony, every winner who is present has to chug a beer from their beer-stein award. If the winner isn't there, the awards presenter has to chug ... or else find a willing audience member to help them out. One presenter (not me) found help from Elizabeth Avellan, a local film producer and co-founder of Troublemaker Studios. She attended the ceremony because she was a producer on the Chilean superhero film Santos, which had its U.S. premiere at Fantastic Fest.

Ms. Avellan is a woman of many talents, but I didn't realize that one of them was the ability to chug a mug of Miller High Life. I am now even more impressed.

I haven't had time to post many details about my Fantastic Fest experience here, but (shameless self-promotion alert) you can read my thoughts on the first half of the festival in an article I wrote for The Circuit, Variety's film-festival blog. I've got tons of photos and some good stories, as well as movies to recommend, so keep checking back.

Quick Snaps: The Paramount is Shy

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Asterisks on the Paramount marquee

I wasn't planning to take a picture of the Paramount Theatre's marquee last night when I got to the theater for the opening-night Fantastic Fest festivities. But as I walked by, I saw the asterisks and couldn't resist. The historic, venerable Austin theater apparently felt reticent about posting the word "SEX" on its front facade, although "PORNO" was considered okay. What can I say, I was amused.

I'm wondering if the Paramount has previously used asterisks for words on its marquee -- does anyone know? Or were they simply feeling a bit awkward about the whole "air sex" concept? Seeing the Air Sex Championships last night on the stage of the Paramount, I might understand, a little. I've posted an example photo from the event after the jump.

Fantastic Fest: Last-Minute News and Info

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Some useful information for out-of-towners and a few weird news items that both festgoers and other Austin film fans might find enjoyable:

  • The best place for Fantastic Fest news and updates is naturally the Fantastic Fest blog. If you're going to the fest, keep an eye on the blog to find out about last-minute additions and changes of all kinds. They've also got some general Austin info for out-of-towners.
  • Fantastic Fest required that badgeholders take "shaky face" photos of themselves for their badges this year -- you shake your head around with your face muscles slack and get someone to snap your photo. The results can look grotesque, unless you're a compulsive giggler (me). Austin360.com has posted a gallery of all the Fantastic Fest "shaky face" badge photos for your entertainment. If you're familiar with the Austin film scene, you'll get a kick out of seeing bizarre versions of Alamo staff and regulars, Austin Film Society staff, local film critics and writers, and other normally recognizable faces. (Yes, that's mine on the right ... the least smiley of the batch we shot at home.) I especially like film writer Jay Slater's photo at #60.
  • If you didn't get a Fantastic Fest badge this year and you still want to see some of the films, Austinist offers The Non-Badgeholders Guide to Fantastic Fest.
  • Local arts blog Kill the Critic has posted an entry about picks and pans for Fantastic Fest films and events this year. Other fest previews at Austin360, Austin Chronicle, Twitch, and Film Threat.

Quick Snaps: Fantastic Fest Photos on Flickr

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 The lobby

I finally posted a Flickr set for my Fantastic Fest photos from 2006 and 2007. After this year's Fantastic Fest, I'll update the set with more photos, and this time I'll try to be speedier about it.

My favorite photo in the set is probably this one from Fantastic Fest 2007, of Wiley Wiggins and Tim League. I used a compact point-and-shoot digital camera for both years of the fest, and while it fits great in a purse and can take lovely photos in the sunshine, it totally sucks for dark theaters. That's why you see so many dim and poorly focused shots -- Richard Kelly is at least recognizable, but George A. Romero and Paul Thomas Anderson are barely more than blurs.

That's not happening this year, now that I have a digital SLR camera. I'm still learning the basics, but even with everything on automatic settings I can snap a far better photo in low-light than I ever could with my itty-bitty camera. If you don't believe me, check out my set of photos from the Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards earlier this year. Morgan Fairchild and ZZ Top are not blurs (Mike Judge comes close, but he barely stood still). If the Fantastic Fest screening of Zack and Miri Make a Porno includes a red-carpet event, hopefully I can snap some photos of Kevin Smith and compare them to my first red-carpet experience. Links to more sets of Fantastic Fest photos after the jump.

Tim League Interview on KUT

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Hellboy 2 screening

Tim League, co-founder of the Alamo Drafthouse, recorded a half-hour interview with John Aielli of KUT this morning. They talk about the upcoming Fantastic Fest. The interview highlights some of the movies scheduled to screen. You can listen to it at the KUT site.

[Photo of Guillermo del Toro and Tim League from Alamo's Hellboy 2 preview screening, courtesy of Jette Kernion]

More Fantastic Fest News

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Fantastic Fest at Alamo

A couple of quick news items about Fantastic Fest, which starts in less than a week:

  • If you're not in Austin, or if you live here but aren't able to attend Fantastic Fest, you can still watch 10 of the festival movies, online, for free. You have to register online with B-side (if you've been to a local film fest, you may already have a B-side account), but that's free too. The movies -- five features and five shorts -- are all eligible for an online audience award, so rate them after you watch them.
  • If you are actually attending Fantastic Fest in person, easy-to-understand guidelines about this year's ticketing/badge system are now available on the Fantastic Fest blog. Badge pickup starts this year on Wednesday, the day before the fest starts.

A quick note for filmmakers who have movies showing at Fantastic Fest: If you're from Austin, shot your film in Austin, or your film is about Austin in some way, would you please post a comment or contact me? I haven't been able to find a list yet of Austin-related films at the fest and I would love to compile such a list myself. So far, the only Austin-related film at Fantastic Fest that I know about is Zombie Girl, a documentary about local horror filmmaker Emily Hagins.

Milkshakes for Everyone at Alamo's 'Hellboy 2' Preview

I have great photos and amusing tales from last night's Hellboy 2 screening at Alamo to share with you, but I'm on deadline with a review of that same movie right now. So for the moment, I'll leave you one of my favorite images of the evening. In the middle of the post-screening Q&A, someone brought milkshakes to all the special guests. Doug Jones, Guillermo del Toro, and Mike Mignola continued answering questions from the audience while sipping their frosty non-alcoholic (I think ...) beverages.

The miracle was not that the milkshakes materialized mid-discussion, nor that the speakers appeared to enjoy them (Alamo shakes are universally beloved, I believe), but that not a single person in the packed audience or up at the front of the room made an "I drink your milkshake!" comment, despite the fact that we were in the very Austin theater where There Will Be Blood unofficially had its world premiere during Fantastic Fest last year, and the audience consisted primarily of Fantastic Fest 2008 badgeholders. I was tempted to make reference to the quote in the title, but I think that line's days are behind us, and will simply conclude by wishing I had one of those Alamo shakes right-damn-now, to enjoy while I struggle with finishing my review of Hellboy 2.

"Big Man Japan" Invades the U.S., Austin First

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Alamo Drafthouse head honcho Tim League is pretty sure this is the first time this has ever happened: Austin will host the U.S. theatrical premiere of a non-Austin film, a week before it moves to New York and L.A. The film is Big Man Japan, an energetic and satirical take on Japan's beloved giant monster genre. Directed by the wildly popular Japanese televison comedian Hitoshi Matsumoto, Big Man Japan crafts a new mythology of giant warriors who defend Japan in times of crisis, and what happens when their legend falls out of favor -- and their numbers dwindle to just one.

The film has played a few festivals but releasing studio Magnolia Pictures was so impressed with the Alamo's enthusiasm for the film that they're opening the flick here. A strong performance could mean more premieres in Austin and/or a wider release for Big Man Japan, so if you're a film geek you owe it to yourself and to geek cinema to buy a ticket and plant your butt in a seat. Several times if necessary. Big Man Japan has a midnight show tonight and a week's worth of daytime and evening shows through May 1. See you there.

Austin at AFI Dallas

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I know, AFI Dallas has already started, but I'm running behind right now -- hell, we still have SXSW stuff yet to post on Slackerwood. That post-SXSW bug really slowed us down. I went to AFI Dallas last year, the film fest's first year, but it was impossible for me to get to Dallas this time, and I'm definitely feeling sorry I'm not there.

Anyway, in case you're up there now or about to go, here are some of the films shot in Austin, or made by Austin filmmakers, playing AFI Dallas:

Six Man, Texas -- Some friends of mine were involved in editing this movie and creating the website, so I'm naturally biased. I saw this film in a rough cut and at the Austin cast/crew screening a couple of months ago, and I'd recommend it. I don't normally like watching football, but this documentary about six-man high-school football teams in Texas focuses more on the change and decline of small Texas towns.

Baghead -- I saw this at SXSW and it's pretty funny. Read my email interview with the Duplass brothers for more background on this movie.

Crawford -- I reviewed this movie for Cinematical during SXSW. Check it out if you can -- I heard the first AFI Dallas screening sold out before the fest even began. You also can read my email interview with director David Modigliani.

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