1. Know the ticketing system. The one complaint I’ve heard over the years of Fantastic Fest was the messy ticketing system. Joy of joy, this seems to have been completely fixed this year. The new system is intuitive and should help you both plan ahead and in the moment. You make all your selections the day before, in order of how much you want to see them, and then everyone’s selections get randomized and they shoot you back your schedule. So you have just as much of a chance to see your top choice as anyone else. And there are no more paper tickets or confusing lines. Great work Fantastic Fest website builders!
2. Bring a Jacket. The Drafthouse is really cold. Especially if there is rain outside. I just froze through a weekend of screenings at aGLIFF so learn from my peril. Yes, the more people in a room the warmer it is, but you can always take that jacket off.
3. Eat before, and after or in your car. The food choices at the Drafthouse are great, for like a day. It’s going to get pretty repetitive for eight. Even more, it’s going to be extremely expensive. Those Royales w/ Cheese are $12. Even a soda will cost you $4, and you have to buy that for each screening. There is nothing really near the Alamo South Lamar, because it’s basically a construction site, so unless you want to get in your car and drive (and check out these great suggestions from the FF Staff) you will be stuck there.
4. Be smart about your Selections. Fantastic Fest always serves as a great place to launch a genre film. But Nightcrawler and the ABCs of Death 2 are all going to get major releases. Heck, The Guest arrives in Austin the day after Fantastic Fest ends. Be sure to diversify your schedule with some pretty amazing foreign films and tiny indies that may never make it back to the big screen.
5. It’s not All about the Films. There are some truly weird things that go on at Fantastic Fest. There is the Fantastic Feud, the Fantastic Debates, Nerd Rap Throwdown, Chaos Reigns Karaoke, and, a little less full of anarchy, a conversation with critic Leonard Maltin. With these events and all the parties and Mondo Con, it would probably be possible to go to Fantastic Fest without ever seeing a movie. Don’t do that, but I’m saying it’s probably possible.
10. HORNS. Ig, accused of murder, wakes up one morning to discover devil horns on his head… and strange new powers. Apparently he has the ability to make anyone tell their darkest truths and to act on their deepest desires. He uses his new skills to find out who actually raped and murdered his girlfriend. The film stars everyone’s favorite wizard, Daniel Radcliffe, in yet another attempt to distance himself as much as possible from his cinematic past. As Ig says in the opening scene: “when you go through Hell, the only way out is to walk deeper through the fire.”
9. THE TALE OF PRINCESS KAGUYA (KAGUYA-HIME NO MONOGATARI). Last year FF gave us THE CONGRESS, this year the sole full-length animation is a beautiful brush-painting inspired fairy tale from Studio Ghibli. In his first film since 1999’s MY NEIGHBORS THE YAMADAS, co-founder Isao Takahata tackles a story from Japanese folklore about the discovery of a nymph baby girl who is adopted by a bamboo cutter and raised as a princess. As suitors from across the land come to win her hand, she longs for the simpler days in the forest.
8. LOST SOUL – THE DOOMED JOURNEY OF RICHARD STANLEY’S ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU. The Marlon Brando/Val Kilmer film is a legendary mess of a film. The director (Stanley) was fired on the first day of shooting. Brando was becoming increasingly bizarre, even for him. And the film was an epic flop. Perfect for a tell-all documentary involving many of the major players: Stanley, Robert Shaye, Edward R. Pressman, Fairuza Balk and members of Stan Winston’s effects team. There aren’t too many docs at Fantastic Fest this year, but the ones they have look great, and this is my pick for the best (and most genrific).
7. DUKE OF BURGUNDY. Peter Strickland’s steamy film is described as a dark melodrama and promises a sexually driven aural roller coaster. The lead character delves into desires that her lover tries her best to satisfy, but the lust leads to a strain in their relationship. After a week at aGLIFF where I found a majority of the films sort of lacking in actual sexual deviancy, this film looks to fill that void. It also promises to be an intense, meditative film and the Fantastc Fest description uses the term ‘visual poem.’ Did I mention it looks sexy?
6. AUTOMATA. One of the most SciFi selections of the festival, Automata follows an insurance agent sent to investigate malfunctioning robots in a post-nuclear dystopian world. Starring Antonio Banderas on the case, he must figure out why a robot would violate its programming and if this is a solitary occurrence. Also featuring Robert Forster and Melanie Griffith, Automata looks like a post-modern take on Blade Runner, which was already post-modern in itself.
5. NYMPHOMANIAC: EXTENDED DIRECTORS CUT. Why would you see a film nearly a year old and available of Netflix? Because this is your one chance to see all 324 minutes of Lars Von Trier’s epic, controversial, and uncomfortably funny film the way he wanted you to see it. Making its North American debut, the Extended Cut goes deeper in the exploits of Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her life-long pursuit of sexual satisfaction and personal destruction. Also featuring Stellan Skarsgård, Shia LaBeouf, Christian Slater, Willem Dafoe and Uma Thurman, the film is a triumph and worth seeing under this particular set-up. It’s only a shame Von Trier is not here to talk about it with attendees after.
4. REALITI. Jonathan King, director of UNDER THE MOUNTAIN, delivers a micro-budget SciFi thriller in this New Zealand feature about a media exec tracking a case of a drug that appears to warp time. When a criminal is caught with his wallet in her hand, and his lawyer brings him down to meet her, he begins to question his own perception of reality in a way that can only be described as Twilight-Zoney. He doesn’t remember how he knows her, and then a few days later, she shows up with his lawyer, completely put together and seemingly unrelated to her earlier situation .
3. EVERLY. A.k.a. Salma Hayek kicks some ass. A prostitute, Everly turns against her ganster boss and becomes a police informant. With a price on her head and every assassin in town wanting to cash in, Everly takes on all comers to protect her family and leaves a trail of bodies in her wake. Add to that, director Joe Lynch (KNIGHTS OF BADASSDOM) brings a healthy amount of humor and pulp fun to the film that promises eruptions of cheers from audiences.
2. CONFETTI OF THE MIND – A Short film collection of films by Nacho Vigalondo, responsible for TIMECRIMES, EXTRATERRESTIAL and this year’s OPEN WINDOWS (also playing) recently picked up by Drafthouse films. The 60 minutes should make a strong case for the development of this Fantastic Fest favorite, including his 2003 Academy Award nominated film 7:30 IN THE MORNING. Curated by Vigalondo himself, the films include CHOQUE, SUNDAY, MARISA, and CARLOTA, as well as an introduction and thoughts from the director himself.
1. WASTELANDER PANDA: EXILE. Are you kidding me? A webseries set in a post-apocalyptic world where the last survivors gather together in communities for protection… and leader is a giant walking, talking, sword-fighting panda bear. After the violent death of a young girl, Isaac crosses the wasteland to find a replacement that will help reinstate his family into the tribe. 6 episodes of this Australian production will make their international premiere at Fantastic Fest.
Fantastic Fest opens Thursday, September 18th and badges are sold out – sorry! Follow me on twitter (@bearsfonte) for daily updates during the festival.