Greetings from Fantastic Fest! Day 4 of 8 is about to start and there’s so much to report. I’ve watched 12 feature-length films, 9 short films, and 6 verbal/physical debates. I danced in the snow at the opening night Christmas in February in September party, and got my picture taken on Santa’s lap. I saw Itchy-O, the 32 member costumed avant-garde occult marching band, and played a few of the games showcased in Fantastic Arcade. It’s been a hell of a three days and the programming is superb. There have been no total duds and only 2 underwhelming films out of the dozen I’ve seen.
Here’s a list of my 5 favorite screenings thus far:
- Green Room– Holy shit, Jeremy Saulnier follows up Blue Ruin with a super suspenseful thriller that puts a young punk band in the wrong place at the wrong time, up against a gang of cutthroat neo-Nazis led by Patrick Stewart. The buzz is strong with this one and for good reason. Best of the Fest thus far and proof that Jeremy Saulnier is the real deal.
- Belladonna of Sadness– Originally released in 1973, this trippy, colorful Japanese animated film has been given new life with a beautiful restoration. The story is dark and the music perfectly accompanies the still paintings and animated sequences. If you ever get the chance to see it on the big screen, watch it and consider yourself lucky. Thanks Fantastic Fest.
- Anomalisa– Charlie Kauffman’s stop-motion animation film follows a regular guy with a mundane life on a business trip in Cincinnati. It’s funny, it’s human, and it’s totally Charlie Kauffman. It’s also nice to look at and for those of you that aren’t yet sold, it features stop-motion sex and cunnilingus.
- The Assassin- Folks looking for buckets of blood and guts need not apply, The Assassin slows things down and gets the most out of every moment. The cinematography is stunning, the costumes are decadent, and Shu Qui shines in the lead role. This is a solid Wuxia film.
- The Brand New Testament- God is real and he lives in an apartment in Brussels with his 10 year old daughter, Ea. Ea plans to get 6 apostles and write a new testament to uplift the human race in this co-production from France, Belgium, and Luxembourg, written and directed by Jaco Van Dormael. Fun and funny, definitely worth a look.
Honorable Mention: The Wave– This is a standard disaster picture done the right way. The Norwegian fjords provide an excellent backdrop for destruction and the lead performances are strong. I was invested in the characters. Though it’s predictable and sometimes implausible, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and the crowd did too.
5 Most-Anticipated: Too Late, Men and Chicken, Love and Peace, The Witch, and Ruined Heart.
I’ll be back with more in-depth coverage and reviews after the Fest. There are still a lot of screenings and plenty of events like Nerd Rap, Fantastic Feud, and the Closing Night Party with Kurt Russell and a gang of cannibals. Happy Fantastic Fest people! Make it count!!
photos taken by Claudia Gonzalez
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