Live from Fantastic Fest '09: Part 1 - Sweet Austin Hospitality
by Alex Billington
September 27, 2009
I'm currently sitting in the lobby of the Alamo Drafthouse on the morning of the 4th day of Fantastic Fest down in Austin, TX. Although I got a few days of rest earlier this week, I'm back right in the thick of things already and exhaustion has definitely started to kick in. However, if it weren't for the wonderful hospitality of Tim League and everyone at Fantastic Fest, I wouldn't be as happy (and excited) as I currently am. This fest really is incredible, I've had a blast every day, and I love seeing movies here at the Drafthouse. I've seen about 10 movies so far, including Zombieland (as seen above), but there's still plenty more left to come!
One reason why Fantastic Fest is so awesome is that Tim has essentially created a week-long party for film geeks. Not only are we seeing crazy new films all day long (and I mean crazy), but every night there's a party at the Highball, Tim's brand new bowling alley / karaoke club a few doors down from the South Lamar Drafthouse. The people who attend this fest are all film lovers and like a small town, everyone knows everyone, or at least they all try to get to know each other (if not). If you love movies, like I do, it feels like you're home being at Fantastic Fest. Kind of like this fest is for you and your group of film loving friends.
Speaking of films, let's get back right into those, because I'm sure that's what everyone wants to hear about, right? Of the 10 I've seen, the big ones I can knock out first are Zombieland, Trick 'r Treat, and Toy Story 1 and 2 in 3D - I'd already seen all of those before coming to the fest. They were repeats because, well, it's Fantastic Fest and they're here for a reason. And, honestly, they're the best films I've seen here so far. That's why I decided to go see them for a second time. But let's get onto some premieres and new films.
Last night I saw Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant followed by George A. Romero's latest zombie feature Survival of the Dead. Between the two, I liked Survival of the Dead better. It takes a lot of smart humor to make me laugh these days and The Vampire's Assistant didn't have any of that. It was a teenage vampire comedy, not at all like Twilight, but not at all dark. It had a serious tone the entire time but was full of a bunch of cheesy dialogue and humor that made the high schoolers in the audience laugh, but not me. Survival of the Dead, on the other hand, was a good fun zombie flick like only Romero could make.
As odd as it may be, the word that I've used the most to describe films here is "fun." For example, the lude Danish animated film Journey to Saturn was very fun, Zombieland was very fun, Gentlemen Broncos was kind of fun, even Cirque du Freak was fun. Fun can mean both good and bad, but it's definitely a word I'm using a lot. And I'm hoping to continue having fun here in Austin as long as the films I'm seeing are good.
Two of the smaller films I saw here that I wanted to talk about are Journey to Saturn and a Canadian film called Sweet Karma. Journey to Saturn is a Danish animated film about a misfit group of astronauts who fly to Saturn and meet some aliens. It's not exactly Pixar level animation, but it does include lots of beer drinking and harsh language, even some nudity. It was actually pretty good. Sweet Karma was a Canadian feature about a mute girl who comes to Toronto to find her sister who was sold into the sex trafficking world in Canada. She exacts some revenge in very horrifically enticing ways. It was low budget, but fun and very entertaining. It's directed by a Canadian and stars a beautiful Canadian actress named Shera Bechard.
And with that, I've got to pack up and head into a screening of Van Diemen's Land that starts in a little while. I'm also hoping to catch Mandrill, Uwe Boll's Rampage, and The Children later today as well. I'm here in Austin for five more days, until October 1st, so stay tuned for more coverage from Fantastic Fest!
Note: From now until October 1st I will be keeping a running tally on all the films I've seen across all three of the film festivals. You can find this list below updated in every new blog post, with links to any reviews.
Telluride Film Festival:
1. Red Riding: 1974 (dir. Julian Jarrold) - Hated It
2. Farewell (dir. Christian Carion) - Just Okay
3. Fish Tank (dir. Andrea Arnold) - Loved It
4. Un Prophete (dir. Jacques Audiard) - Loved It
5. Up in the Air (dir. Jason Reitman) - Loved It
6. Waking Sleeping Beauty (dir. Don Hahn) - Loved It
7. The Road (dir. John Hillcoat) - Loved It
8. Paranormal Activity (dir. Oren Peli) - Loved It
9. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (dir. Werner Herzog) - Liked It
10. Life During Wartime (dir. Todd Solondz) - Just Okay
Toronto Film Festival:
11. Creation (dir. Jon Amiel) - Hated It
12. Men Who Stare at Goats (dir. Grant Heslov) - Just Okay
13. Jennifer's Body (dir. Karyn Kusama) - Liked It
14. Valhalla Rising (dir. Nicolas Winding Refn) - Hated It
15. A Serious Man (dir. Joel and Ethan Coen) - Loved It
16. The Trotsky (dir. Jacob Tierney) - Liked it
17. Up in the Air (dir. Jason Reitman) - Loved It
18. The Informant (dir. Steven Soderbergh) - Loved It
19. Defendor (dir. Peter Stebbings) - Liked It
20. Capitalism: A Love Story (dir. Michael Moore) - Liked It
21. Mr. Nobody (dir. Jaco van Dormael) - Liked It
22. Whip It (dir. Drew Barrymore) - Liked It
23. Youth in Revolt (dir. Miguel Arteta) - Hated It
24. Leslie, My Name is Evil (dir. Reginald Harkema) - Just Okay
25. Leaves of Grass (dir. Tim Blake Nelson) - Liked It
26. Get Low (dir. Aaron Schneider) - Loved It
27. Excited (dir. Bruce Sweeney) - Liked It
28. Ondine (dir. Neil Jordan) - Liked It
29. Cleanflix (dir. Andrew James & Joshua Ligairi) - Just Okay
30. Symbol (dir. Hitoshi Matsumoto) - Liked It
31. Perrier's Bounty (dir. Ian Fitzgibbon) - Liked It
32. Tanner Hall (dir. Francesca Gregorini & Tatiana von Furstenberg) - Just Okay
33. The Disappearance of Alice Creed (dir. J Blakeson) - Liked It
34. Zombieland (dir. Ruben Fleischer) - Liked It
35. First Squad (dir. Yoshiharu Ashino) - Just Okay
36. Gentlemen Broncos (dir. Jared Hess) - Just Okay
37. Journey to Saturn (dir. Andersen / Christoffersen / Frank) - Liked It
38. Sweet Karma (dir. Andrew Thomas Hunt) - Liked It
39. Trick 'r Treat (dir. Michael Dougherty) - Loved It
40. Toy Story 1 in 3D (dir. John Lasseter) - Loved It
41. Toy Story 2 in 3D (dir. John Lasseter) - Loved It
42. Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant (dir. Paul Weitz) - Just Okay
43. Survival of the Dead (dir. George A. Romero) - Liked It