I have a baby. This has nothing to do with Fantastic Fest except that I'm a work-at-home dad, and I decided I only had time for one film festival this year. I have been to Cannes, SXSW and a few smaller ones. It was a no-brainer. If I was only getting to one, I was returning to Fantastic Fest, this year at the new Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline. I would have eight days of movies and mayhem. Here is the first part of the craziest moments of Fantastic Fest, and I'll be back later in the week for Part Two.
10. Reunited and It Feels So Good
Part of the joy of this festival is seeing the familiar faces and actually, physically being face-to-face with those you've only known on Twitter. Two of my favorites, Drew McWeeny and James Rocchi, couldn't make it, but plenty others made up for it. There's also plenty of new blood at the festival, like the film fest virgin whose experience is being tracked by Peter Hall (you'll find that coverage in the days to come). The life of a freelance writer is very lonely. I assume that's why most of us over-tweet (you can follow me @BayerJeff). Fantastic Fest is the best work/vacation I've know.
9. My First Indian Film
Look, I don't know why I haven't sat through a full-length Indian film until now. I don't have a good reason, just like the fact that I've now decided I'll wait and finally see Schindler's List with my kid in about 12 years. Eega is about a murdered man who is reincarnated as a fly and seeks revenge. The film runs a little long, but it's a lot of fun. There's one musical number and one training montage with the fly getting stronger. So yeah, it worked for me.
8. He's Not Short
Elijah Wood isn't short. He is a normal-sized Hollywood actor. As someone who is constantly being asked how tall I am (6'6"), I typically have height on my mind. I know special effects made Wood hobbit-sized, but I was still under the impression that he would be one of the shortest actors I've stood next to (that honor still goes to Dustin Hoffman). The situation even arouse for me to stand next to Wood while looking in a mirror. He comes up to my shoulder. Now to start looking for Tom Cruise.
7. Grand Piano Must Be a Dare
Director Eugenio Mira must have been drunk one night with friends. He must have begged his friends to come up with the most difficult concept to write, finance and get stars (Wood and John Cusack) for. Grand Piano is Speed or Phone Booth... while sitting at a piano in a concert hall. It's completely pulled off as entertaining, though I am still not completely sure if I was laughing with, or at, some moments. Most importantly, it's a good time.
6. Spotting the Lead Actor
Actors and directors mill about with the common folks at Fantastic Fest. Most of them actually stay for more than just their film. The rumor on the street is that Pat Healy from Cheap Thrills is the nicest guy ever. One afternoon I said this to a group of friends, "It feels kind of weird to believe you've spotted the lead in Detective Downs." Why you ask? Because it's the story of a detective with Downs syndrome. Yes, I was right. He's here enjoying the great reception his film received. Thankfully it's sweet, funny and a good classic noir.
5. Breaking Bad
Don't worry, I won't spoil anything about the show here. It's just amazing with this festival going on that there was a large group of us, myself included, that broke away to watch the penulimate episode of Breaking Bad.
4. Bill and Ted
In 1989 I remember declaring Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure was my favorite movie. The Wyld Stallyns spoke to me. Saturday night, Fantastic Fest held the Fantastic Debates. It's a two-round debate, followed by two rounds of boxing. Seriously. Keanu Reeves was in town for Man of Tai Chi and Alex Winter was here for Grand Piano. They didn't fight, but they were in the ring at the same time. Reeves debated the cofounder of the Alamo Drafthouse and Fantastic Fest, Tim League, but then left the fighting up to his star Tiger Chen. Winter was a corner man for League. If Reeves and Winter had fought, or even fake argued for a few seconds, nerdom would have exploded with joy.
3. The Fantastic Flu
Every year an illness washes over this festival simply known as "The Fantastic Flu." I played it smart and drank the flu forcefield known as Emergen-C. Apparently it's not 100 percent. I'm currently sick-ish. If you hung out with me on Sunday, there is a legitimate chance I almost threw up on you. I actually held it in on three occasions. What's odd is, I haven't heard of anyone else getting sick yet. I may be patient zero. The bad news with this is that I'm missing one day of films. The even worse news is that this is the type of crowd that would easily come up with the idea to burn me at the stake, sacrificing me to the Flu Gods in order to save themselves.
2. Man of Tai Chi
Remember how Reeves was here to promote his first directing gig? It's good. Really good. In fact, it's my favorite martial arts film since The Raid: Redemption (though I hear that I have to make time for Ninja: Shadow of a Tear while I am here). Man of Tai Chi is like a Matrix spin-off, with Evil Neo obsessed with creating the best fighter in the almost-real world. Read my full review here.
1. The Congress
In ninth grade I remember falling in love with Childhood's End, Stranger in a Strange Land and every Kurt Vonnegut book I read. The Congress took me back to those days. I was floored by this film. It stars Robin Wright playing a version of herself. There are brutally honest moments of Hollywood exploration and what it means to be an artist. There's also the most original animation (yes, it's partially animated) I've seen. Notice I didn't say, "I've seen in years"? It is fantastic science fiction. Thankfully, Drafthouse Films has already acquired The Congress, so it's just a matter of time before everyone is able to see it.
I also asked others to share their personal craziest moments at Fantastic Fest so far. Here's a sampling:
Brad McHargure stepped bravely into the ring to debate/fight fellow Movies.com writer Jacob C. Hall with the subject being that 28 Days Later is not a zombie movie.
The lesson here is that when you meet, and hang out with the very cool Vince Mancini, there is a reason his twitter handle is what it is.
Tim League ended up with a bloody nose. Watching that fight, everyone in the crowd understood that was the best case scenario for him. Tiger Chen is a small beast.
Cheap Thrills is currently my third favorite at Fantastic Fest. Unfortunately, I watched the screener copy before I came. It's a movie that must be seen with a crowd. The movie is about escalating dares, and from what I heard about the preshow, a man dipped his balls in chiles, and another got a tattoo of "Cheap Thrills" on his ass in exchange for a VIP badge for next year's Fantastic Fest. Good times.
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