Fantastic Fest

Variety Loves Fantastic Fest



Scott Kirsner over at CinemaTech has been covering the International Film Festival Summit this week in Las Vegas (or as Matt Dentler discovered, not-quite-Vegas) and has some great news to report that affects Austin. At the keynote speech, Variety publisher Charlie Koones listed the ten film festivals that he says Variety loves, and that he also considered interesting and exciting. The list included such long-running and well-known festivals as Cannes, Telluride, the Toronto International Film Festival ... and Fantastic Fest here in Austin. Congratulations to Tim League and the other talents behind Fantastic Fest for developing a festival that film geeks adore and Variety praises too.

The above photo is one of my favorites that I took this year at Fantastic Fest: Wiley Wiggins and Tim League at the opening party festivities. Incidentally, Fantastic Fest has already sold out its VIP badges for 2008 (I bought one myself during the festival).

Fantastic Fest Favorite "Timecrimes" Gets Distribution


The above photo is from this year's Fantastic Fest, during the Timecrimes Q&A: Tim League and Timecrimes writer-director Nacho Vigalondo are showing off a dance that Nacho popularized during the film fest.

I like to think that Vigalondo is somewhere doing a similar happy dance right now: Magnolia Pictures has bought worldwide distribution rights for Timecrimes (except in Spain, where the film was shot). The film had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest where the buzz was amazing -- just about everyone was gushing over the film and also over Vigalondo's delightful Q&A sessions; in fact it was almost overhyped. Timecrimes won the Best Feature award and the silver audience award at Fantastic Fest, and the only regret was that Vigalondo wasn't there to chug his beer (the awards at the fest are large beer mugs).

The film then played at Sitges, where Blake at Cinema is Dope reports the reception was not nearly so warm. So I like to think that it was the good reviews and warm fuzzies coming out of Fantastic Fest that helped this film find distribution. [ETA: Harry Knowles notes that Magnolia reps did attend Fantastic Fest this year.]

You can read my own review of Timecrimes at Cinematical. I'm pleased that many people will have the opportunity to see this movie in a theater. Magnolia plans to release Timecrimes in 2008; no word yet ­on a specific date. If you're really lucky, you may get the opportunity to see Vigalondo in person at a screening -- maybe he'll even dance a bit.

[via Matt Dentler's Blog]

Jette's Fantastic Fest Reviews (So Far)


I've been writing Fantastic Fest reviews for Cinematical, and these are currently available:

In addition, my colleague Scott Weinberg has reviewed Sex and Death 101 and Wrong Turn 2: Dead End. We're both working on more reviews now; check out the Fantastic Fest category at Cinematical for the latest coverage.

I've also seen several movies that I won't be reviewing for Cinematical, because they've already done reviews:

  • Persepolis is an animated film about a girl growing up in Iran in the 1980s; this may be my favorite film of the festival. I just found out it is France's submission for the foreign-language Academy Award.
  • Sex and Death 101 was funny, and it's a pleasant change to see a sex comedy for grownups. Patton Oswalt nearly stole the film, and I liked Simon Baker. It did have some uneven spots, the ending seemed too cute for a dark comedy, and I'm not sure I liked the overall depiction of women. Still, I'd recommend it.
  • Finishing the Game was a slight but fun comedy, and since IFC is planning to release it next month as part of a theatrical day-and-date experiment, hopefully you'll get a chance to see it soon.
  • Son of Rambow is delightful. It's about two boys in the UK who see Rambo: First Blood Part 2 and are inspired to make a similar stunt-laden film with a home video camera. I hope this movie gets as wide a release as possible.

Tonight is the closing night of the festival, with the last "secret screening" still to be revealed, and the awards ceremony afterwards. I've had a great time all week and it'll be tough to return to my daily routine.

Fantastic Fest Super-Secret Screening at the Alamo Ritz


Evidently not content with simply running a wildly successful third iteration of Austin's premiere festival for geeks, Tim League and company held an invite-only double-secret probation screening of End of the Line at the new Alamo Drafthouse Ritz location on Monday night. Visiting filmmakers and other Alamo staff and supporters were shuttled to the unfinished theater on 6th Street, where beer, sandwiches, and a jury-rigged "Rolling Roadshow" style screening setup awaited them. League welcomed visitors with a brief tour of the facilities and let drop a few tidbits I hadn't heard before. Some of this was dropped in various blog entries earlier in the year but if you weren't paying attention, here they are again:

  • The actual completion date of the two-screen venue is uncertain but they hope to have it done in time for Halloween this year.
  • Both theaters (one 180-seat room and another, under-100 seat room) have stadium seating.

FF Secret Screening #2: Persepolis


The second "secret screening" at Fantastic Fest just took place: Persepolis, which played at Toronto and Telluride earlier this year. I'd like to refer you to Kim Voynar at Cinematical for a good review of this film from Telluride. I enjoyed the animated film very much, especially its striking visual style.

In addition, I was able to interview Southland Tales director Richard Kelly earlier today, which I think went very well. I'm reviewing the film now for Cinematical -- I'll post a link tomorrow when it's available.

And Fantastic Fest has added yet another secret screening for tonight at 11:30 pm. I'm not sure I'll stay here that long tonight (I have a 9:30 am meeting Monday), but I'm definitely tempted.

FF Secret Screening #1: Southland Tales


I just saw Southland Tales -- I have no idea how I'm going to review this movie, it's so strange.

I figured out what the secret screening would be when I noticed director Richard Kelly walking through the Alamo lobby, about an hour beforehand.

The opinion I'm most interested in hearing is Matt Dentler. He's the only person I know at Fantastic Fest who saw the longer cut of the film at Cannes in 2006, so I'm hoping he'll check in with a comparison soon on his blog. 

More later -- I'm now in the theater waiting for Sex and Death 101 to start. 

Fantastic Fest: Moebius Spiral (Day Two)



Day Two of Fantastic Fest didn't have the partying excitement of opening night, or any secret screenings, but all that means is that I don't have a lot of photos or breaking news. All I did was to watch two good movies, each followed by interesting Q&A sessions with the filmmakers, and hang out with a bunch of film-geek friends. Oh, and I got a squishy skull that bubbles blood out of its eyes when you squeeze it -- a promotional item for Flight of the Living Dead. I'll have to take a picture.

The first movie I saw was one of the few documentaries screening at Fantastic Fest -- Moebius Redux: A Life in Pictures. I met the director, Hasko Baumann, at the opening-night party, and he seemed concerned that no one would want to watch a documentary at this festival. He was wrong -- a good-size crowd was in the theater when he introduced the film.

Fantastic Fest: Opening Night Photos


The third annual Fantastic Fest opened last night with a big outdoor party, George A. Romero at a screening of his new film Diary of the Dead, and other fun films and events. The above photo is one of the attractions from the party, which stuck around after the party ended and into the night -- Ruben's Tubes, in which fire is controlled by sound waves from music. This was one of several exhibitions contributed by Dorkbot Austin for the party.

The opening-night party actually took place during the day, before the movies started, which was a great idea -- we could all meet people and chat and hang out without having to miss any of the films. The badge pickup was outside too, so when I showed up at Alamo on South Lamar, I encountered a lively setup:

Fantastic Fest Wants Us All to Dress Like Bruce Lee


Finishing the Game at FFOne of the films I've been looking forward to seeing at Fantastic Fest this year is Finishing The Game, a mock-documentary based on the real-life premise of finding stand-ins for Bruce Lee so his final movie, The Game of Death, could be completed. The Justin Lin film sounds like lots of fun, but leave it to Fantastic Fest to find a way to add even more fun to the mix.

Austinist is teaming up with the festival to host a Bruce Lee lookalike contest, with a grand finale planned during the festival screenings of the film. You can read all the details on Austinist. The contest is essentially in two parts -- the first contest takes place now, and you send your photo/video to Austinist, with voting to occur on the Austinist site. Prizes include Fantastic Fest badges or passes to see Finishing the Game.

The second contest takes place live in person at the actual Finishing the Game screenings, with a grand prize of a month's free kung fu classes and some pretty nifty runners-up prizes too. Tim League posted on the Fantastic Fest site that even if you don't think you can win the contest, he'd love to see as many festival attendees as possible dressed up in "Brucewear." He writes, "Let's get as much Bruce as we can in one theater for the Brucinest event in theatrical history!" Now I'm wondering if we'll see Mr. League dressed up as Bruce Lee, too. This screening should be an event to remember.

Fall Festival Roundup


If you're a film geek, September and October are pretty great months to live in Austin. Within the space of five weeks there will be nearly five hundred different features and shorts on display, many of them well outside the mainstream and which won't be screening again in Austin for months -- if ever. Here's a quick guide to the three big festivals of the Fall in the capital of Texas.

Fantastic Fest (Sept. 20-27)

In their words: "Fantastic Fest is a week-long festival featuring the best in new science-fiction, fantasy, horror, animation, crime, Asian, and all around badass cinema."

What they play: Fantastic Fest has tighter focus than its cousins and (potentially) more bang for the buck if you're into genre film. Fantastic Fest is the place to see the weird, the wonderful, the what-the-eff-was-that movies of the yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Claim to fame: Organized by Tim and Karrie League of the Alamo Drafthouse and programmed by such guiding lights as Matt Dentler (SxSW), Lars Nilsen (Weird Wednesday), and Harry Knowles (Ain't It Cool News), Fantastic Fest has geek cred coming out the wazoo. The Leagues pull out all the stops to get the festival's filmmakers into town for the show. If the names Bruce Campbell and Shusuke Kaneko aren't familiar, however, you might not care about the celebrity-types wandering the Alamo halls during this festival. Though I guess Mel Gibson did pull a surprise appearance last year, so who knows?

Visit the Fantastic Fest website.

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