Day 5: Monday 9/22
My excursion to MondoCon was a lot of fun, but I was ready to get back to the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar and pack in as many movies as possible. Monday kicked off the second half of Fantastic Fest, a four day span in which I would consume 20 feature length films, 10 short films, The Maltin Chronicles, and a kick ass closing night party.
Monday was one of the best movie days of the fest. I liked all of the feature-length films I saw quite a bit. The day started early with an 8 AM press screening of Tokyo Tribe, a movie that is perfectly suited for Fantastic Fest
Film 10- Tokyo Tribe
Director- Shion Sono
Starring- Akihiro Kitamura, Hitomi Katayama, Ryôhei Suzuki
Tokyo Tribe intrigued me with it’s colorful, kinetic trailer that features Japanese street gangs rapping and battling at the same time. The movie didn’t disappoint and even though I saw it early in the morning on little sleep, I bobbed my head and got hyped up. It’s not your average musical. Like a crazy mix of West Side Story and The Warriors, in a neon wasteland that brings to mind Blade Runner and Enter the Void, Tokyo Tribe tells the story of 23 tribes who violently clash after a period of relative peace.
Characters rap their lines and thoughts, and though I’m sure a lot of the wordplay and details are lost in translation, enough gets through to easily follow the story. The movie has good production value and the big fight scene is well-choreographed. I also enjoyed the different styles of the tribes. The evil kingpin Lord Buppa is violent and goofy, and he looks like an Asian Wayne Newton with a crazy face tat. Tokyo Tribe is bizarre in all the right ways.
4 out of 5 Nerdskulls
Film 11- Force Majeure
Director- Ruben Östlund
Starring- Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren, Kristofer Hivju
Force Majeure is one of the funniest films from Fantastic Fest. Not in a gut-busting way, but in an uncomfortable Curb Your Enthusiasm kind of way. The Swedish film blends situational comedy, buoyant classical music, and gorgeous snowy mountain imagery to tell the story of a family on a five day ski vacation in the French Alps who have a scary encounter with an avalanche.
Johannes Kuhnke turns in a fine performance, much of which is conveyed through expressions and a look that is one part pride and two parts shame. Lisa Loven Kongsli is even better. The two start as a unified front to the children and Kuhnke’s character’s actions in a pivotal moment forge them apart with hilarious effect. Kristofer Hivjur is funny in a smaller role and also appears in In Order of Disappearance, another gem from Fantastic Fest.
4 out of 5 Nerdskulls
Film 12- Jacky in the Kingdom of Women
Director- Riad Sattouf
Starring- Vincent Lacoste, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Didier Bourdon, Michel Hazanavicius
The streak of interesting, entertaining movies continued with Jacky in the Kingdom of Women, a wicked French satire that hilariously pokes fun at politics, religion, society, culture, and gender roles. Speaking of gender roles, they’re reversed here. In the Kingdom of Bubunne, women are in power and men wear veils, sexually repressed and required to do domestic labor.
Jacky (Lacoste) is the prettiest boy in the village and is hoping to be chosen as the “Big Dummy” to the Colonel (Gainsbourg) in this unique take on the Cinderella story that was an unexpected hit with the crowd. The film is shot well, has it’s own strange language, and a nice little twist at the end.
3.5 out of 5 Nerdskulls
Film 13- No Man’s Land
Director- Ning Hao
Starring- Zheng Xu, Duobujie, Nan Yu, Bo Huang
No Man’s Land was another nice surprise. It’s a Western from the East, in Mandarin with English subtitles. Director Ning Hao’s film rang too true with censors and was banned for four years before finally being released in 2013. It’s well-made and brings to mind the Coen brothers’ No Country For Old Men.
The movie has odd characters, dark humor, and picturesque cinematography of dusty wastelands. The suspenseful music (tin drum?) fit well and some of the score has a Western/Spanish sound to it. Overall, it is a very solid film.
4 out of 5 Nerdskulls
After No Man’s Land, I made my way to The Highball and grabbed a spot at the bar with a clear view of the stage. As a lifelong movie freak, Leonard Maltin is a hero of mine and his yearly movie and video guides were like my bibles. I spent hours going through them and making lists of movies to see. This was back before everything you ever wanted to know was a few clicks away.
Maltin and Ebert were the first critics I really got to know through their writing. I didn’t always agree with them, but I came to know their likes and dislikes and understood where they were coming from. Aside from the yearly movie guides, I also had Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide and his book on Disney films. He’s also my spirit animal.
It was fun to see him up close and personal, on stage with hosts Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly shootin’ the shit for an hour. He discussed his love of old comedies like those of Laurel and Hardy and The Three Stooges. When asked what he misses in current comedies that they should bring back, he responded, “humor.”
Maltin told us about his 9 year tenure publishing a fanzine, his first book at 17 in 1969 when he was a freshman in college, and his reviews for the NYU newspaper. He has a lot of respect for Roger Ebert and said that Ebert was a great writer.
He shared a quote that he likes from Cicero:
“Not to know what happened before you were born is to be a child forever.”
And one from Stephen Colbert:
“Opinions are like demo tapes. I don’t want to hear yours.”
It was an enjoyable event. My only criticism is that he showed a minor lack of respect for the audience’s knowledge of film history. For instance, he spoke of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (and other movies) like none of us ‘youngsters’ could have possibly seen or heard of it. I agree with his viewpoint that younger generations and more of the general populace should be more open to watching classic movies, but I don’t think he realizes that there are a lot of young, passionate film enthusiasts that are well versed in the history of cinema, and many of them attend Fantastic Fest.
Even so, he was super nice both of the times I talked to him and it was cool to have him at Fantastic Fest.
Short Fuse 2014 consisted of 10 short horror films ranging from funny to freaky. Five countries were represented. Australia and Norway each had a film, the UK and France each had two films, and the USA had four films. There were a few movies I liked more than the rest, but no clear-cut favorite and nothing really blew my mind. It wasn’t on the same level as the amazing animated program Drawn and Quartered but still a decent string of shorts.
Crazy For You is a romantic comedy about the difficulties of finding love when you’re a serial killer. Funny, enjoyable.
He Took His Skin Off For Me tells the story of a man that takes his skin off for his partner, and has to deal with the bloody consequences. Funny, ridiculous.
Goat Witch is a spooky depiction of an occult ritual. It has terrific makeup effects, good production value, and a message at the end about magic. Watch it here. *Warning* it is NSFW and contains blood/nudity.
Autumn Harvest is the story of an old man and the sea. I enjoyed the black-and-white cinematography, but I found it to be long and boring.
Invaders not to be confused with the 2013 short film Invaders or the other Invaders short from this year, is a funny story about a botched home invasion that takes place on Thanksgiving. It was runner up for best horror short at the Fantastic Awards.
Death Sentence (Peine De Mort) is a story about a woman seeking vengeance. It is gratuitous and features violence, torture, and rape. I couldn’t get into it.
Waterborne is the tale of a zombie kangaroo. It forgoes special effects in favor of an expensive puppet that was funded on Indiegogo.
The Stomach won the award for best short film at the Fantastic Awards. It involves a spirit medium and a character with someone living his stomach.
Bad Guy #2 is an Austin-based crime comedy with lots of bloody practical effects. It follows one goon on his violent path to become the kingpin. Not bad.
In Extreme Pinnochio a dwarf junkie dresses up as Pinocchio to steal money from a schizophrenic psychopath who thinks he’s Geppetto. Sounds better than it is.
Film 14- I Am a Knife with Legs
Director- Bennett Jones
Starring- Bennett Jones, Will Crest, Tommy Malatesta, Tom Bliss
I Am a Knife with Legs was the perfect way to end a long, movie-filled day. Writer/director/star Bennet Jones channels his inner Sacha Baron Cohen as crazy character Bené, an international rock superstar hiding out in Los Angeles. The movie is silly, absurd, random, fun, and funny. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and embraces it’s amateur nature.
Though ridiculous, Jones plays Bené completely straight and is totally committed to the part. He was the same way when he appeared in character at Fantastic Fest. This movie isn’t for everybody (some people will think it’s dumb as shit) but it will surely find it’s audience and probably attain cult status, possibly as a midnight movie.
3 out of 5 Nerdskulls
5 days down, 3 to go. Day 6 coming soon!
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