Hello, ladies and gentlemen. It’s on! Ready or not, Fantastic Fest kicks off tomorrow, Thursday, September 22nd and runs through Thursday, September 29th. Movie freaks and geeks from around the world flock to the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar in Austin, TX for the most fun, least pretentious film festival in the cosmos. For 8 days, we’ll binge watch a variety of eclectic movies (short and long), listen to Q&As with filmmakers and other special guests, attend and participate in crazy movie-related events, stuff our faces with food and drinks (lots of drinks), and party it up Alamo Drafthouse style.
There’s so much to look forward to this year (like every year) and as always, there’s a little something for everybody. FF2016 brings us new movies from renowned directors Denis Villeneuve (Arrival), Chan-Wook Park (The Handmaiden), Ana Lily Amirpour (The Bad Batch), Werner Herzog (Salt and Fire), Paul Schrader (Dog Eat Dog), and Paul Verhoeven (Elle). Tim Burton will be in attendance for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, his most intriguing film in years. Cinematic historian and film critic Leonard Maltin will interview Burton at The Highball (Alamo’s bar, fully equipped with stage, dance floor, and themed karaoke rooms) in a new special event dubbed Maltin at the Movies. He’ll also have an in-depth interview with Bruce Campbell (in town with Season 2 of Ash vs Evil Dead).
This year’s fest features a celebration of Indian cinema, with a sidebar of films that include the 3 hour epic Kammattipaadam, Rajeev Ravi’s spin on Sergio Leone’s own epic (and one of my personal favorites), Once Upon a Time in America. This one’s intriguing and it’s practically calling for me to watch it since the last four letters of the film’s title happen to be my first name. Any other time I’d call ‘coincidence’ but this is Fantastic Fest; this is destiny. Indian powerhouse Anurag Kashyap has two films at the festival. His new movie Psycho Raman, and his never-released-due-to-censorship-issues film, Paanch (2003). Khal Nayek, Subhash Ghai’s “ultra stylish” 1993 film will also play on the big screen and it’s said to feature “one of Bollywood’s most iconic villains.” The epic lineup will feature an equally epic opening night party to kick off the festival “with South Asia’s sights, sounds, sustenance, and swigs.” Well, all right, how do you say, ‘let’s get it on’ in Hindi?
Without a doubt, my most anticipated screening/event of the festival is RZA: Live From The 36th Chamber. As a true Wu head from way back in the gap, and a huge fan of Shaw Brothers films, particularly The 36 Chambers of Shaolin, this event is the stuff that dreams are made of. 36 Chambers was my first Shaw Brothers film and I watched it because I read The Wu-Tang Manual which features a section on movies, with RZA writing passionately about his love of the film and how it (and other Shaw Brothers flicks) inspired him and the other members of the group. He goes into detail about some of the films and talks about the culture back when he was growing up, spending hours watching SB flicks and other kung fu movies in seedy NYC theaters. My wife and I had a blast at last year’s Fantastic Fest screenings of The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter and Come Drink With Me, and we talked about how cool a 36 Chambers screening would be. Never did we anticipate that RZA himself would be doing a live re-score and drawing from his entire catalogue of songs, beats, lyrics, and whatever else he wants to use to accentuate the movie. This will be an unforgettable event for anyone who attends, but for true fans of RZA the emcee, RZA the producer, RZA as Bobby Digital, and the Wu-Tang Clan, for folks who grew up with the music and know all the words, even on the deep cuts, this will be downright transcendent. (Fingers crossed we both get in.)
Also of interest are the documentaries and animated films. There are at least five docs that I want to see (24 x 36: A Movie About Movie Posters, S is for Stanley, Belief: The Possession of Janet Moses, Rats, and Bugs) and three animated films (The Red Turtle, Nova Seed, and My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea). Two of the docs really grab my attention:
24 x 36: A Movie About Movie Posters has been anticipated by collectors of limited edition screenprinted movie posters for at least a couple of years now. At event after event, we’d see director Kevin Burke with his camera, talking to artists and their rabid, poster-collecting fans, documenting the long lines and the booming hobby. Real movie poster art died as the studios opted for cheap floating head photoshop jobs, but it’s currently alive and kicking with companies like Mondo, Bottleneck Gallery, Hero Complex Gallery, Gray Matter Art, Dark Hall Mansion, Cyclops Print Works and many many more releasing dozens of licensed (and unlicensed) screenprints for all kinds of movie properties, new and old. Studios are taking notice of the scene; can the quality artful movie poster have a full-on resurgence? One can hope.
Stanley Kubrick was brilliant; a cinematic genius. He didn’t make many films, but almost all of them are unique pillars that will stand and inspire until the world destructs. There’s a solid (I’d say essential) doc about Kubrick himself (Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures) and a solid doc about the thousand or so boxes he left behind filled with research, snap shots, newspaper clippings, notes, and fan letters (Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes), now we get a (hopefully solid) documentary about his longtime personal assistant Emilio D’Alessandro, titled S is for Stanley (directed by Alex Infascelli). What’s next, a trilogy about his cats? I kid, but Kubrick freaks (like me) love this kind of insight into a man who’s always been a bit of an enigma. I bet it’s filled with funny/interesting stories and anecdotes. Can’t wait to check it out.
All three animated features look enticing. The Red Turtle is a collaboration between Dutch animator/director Michael Dudok de Wit and Studio Ghibli. It doesn’t have a single word of dialogue and it’s about a castaway on a deserted tropical island guarded by a red tortoise. Sold. Nova Seed was hand-drawn by a single animator over a four year span. It’s said to look/feel inspired by Moebius and Miyazaki and it features a character named Dr. Mindskull. Sold. My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea. Sold (great title). MEHSSITS is about a hopeful writer voiced by Jason Schwartzman who takes action when disaster strikes. It features the voices of Reggie Watts, Susan Sarandon, Lena Dunham, and Maya Rudolph, and it’s directed by graphic novelist Dash Shaw. Hooray for animation!
Aside from the movies (of which there are dozens more) there’s a slew of events and parties including festival favorites the Fantastic Debates (contestants spar, first verbally then physically), Nerd Rap (nerd’s rap), and Fantastic Feud (Family Feud with rude n’ crude movie dudes). There’s a Comedy Meltdown, Doug Benson‘s back, and Itchy-O returns to unleash hell on The Highball. FF16 introduces a Satanic Panic Room and Puke and Explode! The FF Eating Contest which sounds absolutely disgusting (though undeniably intriguing).
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are several more movies and events that I’m excited for, but I gotta run. Time to pack my bags and head to Austin. Shit’s about to jump off!
If you see the guy with the Nerdlocker press badge (pictured below), say hello! This is my third FF (my wife’s second) and we’re looking to fit in as many movies and events as possible and to once again leave it all on the theater floor. There’s no other way. See you in Austin.
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