Fantastic Fest

Fantastic Fest 2012 Day One: Slow Burn

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After almost a week of cooler than usual weather, Austin returned to the upper 90s just in time for the first official day of Fantastic Fest. Badgeholders lined up at 9:30 am to pick up their tickets for the day's shows, and travellers continued arriving throughout the day.

The Mondo pop-up store opened at noon, with new posters for festival films as well as the infamous "flat file" stuffed with goodies as well as a preview of the gallery's October show, which will feature Universal monsters.

Well before its 6:00 pm showtime, Frankenweenie had drawn crowds of festival-goers as well as dozens of dog owners dressed to the nines with their dolled-up pooches. Frankenweenie was followed by a Q&A with Director Tim Burton as well as stars Charlie Tahan, Winona Ryder, Martin Landau and producer Allison Abbate. Read Rod's review to find out more about the movie.

Fantastic Fest Review: Frankenweenie

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Frankenweenie

Fantastic Fest is an eight-day feast of genre film. Some films are the meat course and others are dessert. The opening-night movie at this year's festival, Frankenweenie, is a flavorful appetizer. With this animated feature, Tim Burton has recaptured the whimsical mojo that he exhibited with his seminal film Beetlejuice.

Frankenweenie is the story of young Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) and his dog Sparky. Early in the film, Sparky is run over by a car, sending Victor into a tailspin. But in science class the next day, his teacher Mr. Rzykruski (Martin Landau) demonstrates the effect of electricity on a recently deceased frog. Victor is inspired! Armed with a potential solution to return his dog from the grave, Victor concocts his own science project. Victor digs up Sparky, sets up a lab in his home's attic and waits for a lightning storm. His wishes come true -- after receiving a high voltage charge, Sparky is reanimated.

Hot Tickets at Fantastic Fest 2012

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Fantastic Fest

Today is the beginning of another (8th, in fact) Fantastic Fest, the homegrown brainchild of Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League, Ain't It Cool head geek Harry Knowles, Paul Alvarado-Dykstra  and Tim McCanlies, which has grown into an international powerhouse of the genre film world. The fest runs through Thursday, September 27, and genre film lovers are arriving in Austin from around the country ... around the world, even, as the emphasis on international films brings filmmakers from countries including Chile, Denmark, Spain and Japan.

The films have been chosen, attendees are arriving, and the schedule has been set (though some surprises may yet lie in store).  As you look at the schedule planning which films to see this week, consider these hot-ticket shows:

  • Sinister -- No one can fail to mention this homecoming film to be released on October 12, scripted by Austin writer C. Robert Cargill. J.C. reviewed the movie after its secret SXSW screening. Sinister will only screen once, on Friday at 8:30 pm. This is perhaps the hottest ticket of the fest not only because of local roots, but because of the overwhelming positive reception it has received from critics and audiences alike.
  • Dredd 3D -- Karl Urban returns as a Fantastic Fest guest (he appeared previously for a Q&A with RED in 2010). Early reports say Dredd is a winner. Debbie has seen it and says she "didn't want to like it due to the ultra-violence and mounting indiscriminate body count, but a well-developed character arc and the pacing engaged me more than I initially intended." It screens tonight at 9:05 pm -- if you don't have tickets already, you'll want to get in the standby line.

Fantastic Fest 2012 Guide: The ABCs of Fantastic Fest

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FF ABCs

Welcome to the 2012 Fantastic Fest Survival Guide. With help from Slackerwood contributor and Fantastic Fest vet Mike Saulters, I've tried to cover every little thing you might want to know while you're spending the week in lovely south central Austin. Literally, I've covered fest tips from A to Z in honor this year's The ABCs of Death, which will have its U.S. premiere at Fantastic Fest 2012. If we left anything out, feel free to post a comment.

A few notes about relative location: If you are standing in front of Alamo and facing South Lamar (the big busy street), left is north and right is south. Left/north takes you to Barton Springs Road (land of many restaurants and a couple of coffee shops) and eventually downtown. Right/south takes you away from downtown but about a mile down, to a number of good restaurants (and the cheap yet tasty Maria's Taco XPress) as well as Office Depot and CVS.

Check out our other 2012 Fantastic Fest guides for more helpful advice: The Most Fun Homework You'll Ever Do, Planning Your BBQ and Beer Run and XX Team Power! The Fantastic Fest Females Survivor Guide.

XX Team Power! The Fantastic Fest Females Survival Guide

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Fantastic Fest 2011

This week, I'll embark on my seventh journey into the film-geek-genre adventure known as Fantastic Fest. In 2006, I was a newbie, navigating the bloody waters of strange and fascinating cinema. It was uncharted territory for someone of the double-X chromosome persuasion, as females were the definite minority among attendees. Since then, our numbers (and powers) have increased with women banding together to proclaim, "We're genre nerds too!"

Even so, I continue to have this same conversation:

Me: "Oh, I love Fantastic Fest. I go every year and have a blast!"
Female Fantastic Fest Virgin: "It's not really my thing. I don't like slasher movies."
Me: "I don't either."
FFFV: "Then how… ?"

Ladies, listen up. You too can enjoy Fantastic Fest. If you love celebrating the quirky and unexpected side of cinema, and enjoy being around like-minded people, you need to attend this festival. Even if you hate horror films or "rapey" movies, you can still see some amazing and unforgettable films. Some are unforgettable for bad reasons, but still great conversation starters.

Fantastic Fest 2012 Guide: Planning Your BBQ and Beer Run

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bbq run - ff09 (4)"Over time the process of creating pit barbecue has transformed such modest spots into great spaces, where the smoke and heat have penetrated the walls and the people who toil within them."
-- 
Wyatt McSpadden, Texas BBQ, University of Texas Press

As a native Texan, I enjoy joking about the four basic food groups of Texas: Tex-Mex, BBQ, Southern-fried, and beer. Every year the increasing number of Fantastic Fest attendees from all over the globe seem to be most fascinated with BBQ, although beer is certainly not neglected. Much of that credit goes to Alamo Drafthouse founder and CEO Tim League, who has spearheaded barbecue-themed road trips to favorite iconic stops around Central Texas for film lovers and visiting filmmakers, as seen above.

Texans take their BBQ very seriously, even more so then the "beans or no beans in chili" argument. With BBQ it's "sauce or no sauce" that evokes major controversy, and when sauce is allowed the flavors may ranges from sweet to peppery to holy habanero hot. Perfecting the technique of smoking a brisket until there's a perfect pink smoke line while leaving a moist center is critical to many pitmasters, and a nice "bark" is achieved through the use of a pepper rub.

Let me state for the record -- this guide is not meant to provide a comprehensive list of the best Austin has to offer. There are already plenty of BBQ blogs and lists around for reference. And yes, many Texans prefer the "BBQ" spelling over the generic "barbecue." (That's another argument you can enjoy.)

Fantastic Fest 2012 Guide: The Most Fun Homework You'll Ever Do

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The Good, the Bad and the Weird

Fantastic Fest is just around the corner. So that means your time to catch up and do your homework on films screening at the fest is growing shorter every day. Some favorite directors from Fantastic Fest past are returning and others are making their first appearance. I know some of my most anticipated are hard to familiarize yourself with beforehand (New Kids Turbo), but you can find most of these films at your favorite local video store (Vulcan! I Luv Video!) or streaming online. Hurry now because you're losing days at this rate.

Fantastic Fest selection: The American Scream (dir. Michael Paul Stephenson)

Stephenson's previous film Best Worst Movie premiered at SXSW 2009, and documented the cult phenomenon Troll 2. The filmmaker's latest documentary stays in the same genre yet takes a look at three passionate haunted house enthusiasts as they prepare their home to scare the living hell out of those who walk through it. The American Scream producer Zack Carlson appears in Best Worst Movie as well.

Prep work: Best Worst Movie is available on DVD. Look for it in the documentary section (just see if you can spot the terrific Tyler Stout artwork). It's also available for rental on Amazon Instant Video ... and embedded below, via Hulu.

Fantastic Fest 2012 Lineup: The Austin Connections

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The Quiet Girl's Guide to Violence

This week, Fantastic Fest announced the final wave of its 2012 features and shorts programming. Many of the films were from other countries -- Fantastic Fest tends to have an international flavor, rather than a regional one. This is an elegant way of saying that you don't see a lot of Lone Star movies in the festival lineup. However, there are always one or two local gems to uncover at the fest.

Here are the Austin-connected films I've found (so far) that will screen during Fantastic Fest 2012. If I've missed something, please let me know in the comments. This list doesn't include bumpers -- the short shorts that screen before each movie at the fest -- but there are always a few memorable Austin-shot bumpers at the fest every year, so keep an eye out.

The Features:

  • The ABCs of Death -- The official release date for this Drafthouse Films-produced horror anthology has been pushed back to 2013, but Fantastic Fest-goers still have the chance to see it soon. Austin-born filmmaker/actress Angela Bettis shot her segment in Austin with some local crew.
  • The American Scream -- Alamo programmer Zack Carlson is one of the producers of this documentary from Michael Stephenson (Best Worst Movie). It's about homemade haunted houses in a small Massachusetts town and the families who stage them.

Fantastic Fest 2011: All Our Coverage

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Updated October 11, 2011.

Slackerwood was all over Fantastic Fest 2011. Here's a list of all our coverage (after the jump) in one handy-dandy location.

Fantastic Fest Interview: Harry Knowles, 'Comic-Con Episode Four'

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Harry Knowles

Austin's Harry Knowles is the creator and editor of the website Ain't It Cool News and a co-founder of Fantastic Fest. In addition, he's produced a documentary, Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan's Hope, which was this year's Fantastic Fest closing-night selection. The movie is a look inside San Diego Comic-Con and is directed by Morgan Spurlock; the film's other producers include Joss Whedon and Stan Lee. You can read Jette's review for details.

I sat down with Knowles before the fest began to ask him a few questions about Comic-Con Episode Four.

Slackerwood: You've worked at producing other films, such as John Carter of Mars and Ghost Town. How did you get involved in this one, and why do you think this is the first one to be made after others fell through?

Harry Knowles: With John Carter, it was a situation where the studio kept changing hands. Every single time we had a new studio head we had to get a new director, which was counter-productive. Every time we had a script that we all agreed we were going on, suddenly the head of the studio would change and we'd have to basically start from scratch again, which was a demoralizing sort of thing. And with Ghost Town, Revolution Studios went under before we were able to make the film. Since then I've been pretty quiet about everything I've been producing, because the thing you learn when you're working in the film business is, it's not real until it is in the can and on Blu-ray.

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