Fantastic Fest Day Five: Bullets, Breasts, Beer and Boxing Gloves

Day Five of Fantastic Fest consisted of one movie. ONE MOVIE! Is it a shame when you attend a film festival and see only one movie on a particular day? I'd normally say yes, but when you see the alternatives that were available, I hope you'll side with me on this one. It was not a day wasted. Besides, I'm stacking my days fairly film heavy for the rest of the festival, and I have a stack of screeners to wade through still, so it will not have been in vain.

One note on the day: Fantastic Fest VIP badges went on sale Monday morning for 2010 ... and they sold out in one minute. That's right, 60 seconds. That shattered their record from last year, when they sold out in two minutes. Fairly incredible for a festival this size, and it just shows how much people covet those VIP passes, which let you pick up tickets a day early for screenings, and gets you access into some of the fun events they have. Luckily, since they built The Highball lounge nearby, space hasn't really been that much of an issue, and it's a perfect venue for after-screening parties.

RAMBO 101: This is what I gave up most of my morning and afternoon for, missing the Chilean martial arts / hitman movie Mandrill in the process, which people have been raving about. Instead I was packed into a van and shuttled out of Austin, off into the boonies to the Astro Village Shooting Range where a group of private paramilitary guys called The BlackStone Group trained us to fire fully automatic weapons. Not replicas, not airsofts, and not paintball guns, but the real deal. Complete with bullets that could actually kill someone. Luckily, no one was "ventilated" as they referred to it. In the alternating pouring rain and pounding sun, I shot a UMP-45, a G-36, an AK-47, a semi-automatic combat shotgun, and a compact M-16. We were given five bags of ammo and were told we could do everything from single shots, to short bursts, to full auto ... and let me tell you firsthand that full auto on an AK-47 is amazing. That sucker just wants to climb to the sky, and it would have been a wonder if I could have hit a target with it. My shoulder is still fairly bruised from the combat shotgun, but my favorite by far was the G-36. It had a holographic red-dot sight and double pistol-style grips and made a chattering sound when you fired it that would make lesser men pee in their pants. Thankfully my pants remained dry, but damn that whole event was a lot of fun.

Venus in Furs: They're showing four of director Jess Franco's films from the 1960s as part of the festival. In fact, the whole thing kicked off with Eugenie: The Story of Her Journey into Perversion last Wednesday, and since then they've also shown Succubus, The Bare Breasted Countess, and Venus in Furs. On surface level, the best way to sum up Franco's films are "arthouse flicks with boobs." They're deeper than that once you see one, but a casual observer will notice that the women in his movies tend to hardly ever wear clothing. That was definitely true in Venus in Furs, which is a movie about a trumpet player named Jimmy who finds a woman's dead body on the beach ... or does he? "She was beautiful, even though she was dead." When she begins to turn up alive in various places to seek revenge on the two men and woman who killed her in a night of depravity, Jimmy starts to question things. Is she undead? Or a ghost? Or is she even real? The movie doesn't give you a real answer, and the final scene is a real "blow your mind, daddy-o" moment. You're either going to hate Franco's films, or think he's a cinematic genius, so you might try watching these on your own. He does a lot of experimentation with the camera, and if you really needed further convincing, there are all the naked women. Just a reminder.

The Fantastic Fest Awards: When you win a category at Fantastic Fest, you aren't presented with some cheeseball, bronze trophy. No, the award is a commemorative ceramic stein full of cold beer. When you accept your award, you have to chug down the beer and hoist your stein triumphantly. Definitely better than watching boring speeches and waiting for people to get played off by the music so they can hurry things along. From the press release: "Taking top prize in the Next Wave competition is the darkly comedic drama from Britain, DOWN TERRACE. The audience award goes to A TOWN CALLED PANIC, the best horror film goes to HUMAN CENTIPEDE while Chilean action thriller MANDRILL takes the Fantastic Feature award." I had the honor of accepting the award for my favorite film Fish Story, which won for Best Fantastic Screenplay. I'm seeing the rest of the films this week, so hopefully I'll be able to see what the hubbub was all about. At the end of the ceremony, the director of Down Terrace popped the cork off of a bottle of champagne with a sword, and we all raised a toast to all of the competing films and filmmakers, and to those who won. A nice touch.

The Fantastic Debates: Another Fantastic Fest staple are the midnight Fantastic Debates, where filmmakers, film critics, and other square off in a boxing ring. First they engage in verbal debates, then they actually go toe to toe in a very real boxing match. The topics this year included, "Michael Bay: Does He Deserve An Oscar or the Death Penalty?", "Are Vampires Gay?", and "Is Independent Film Dead?" Highly entertaining stuff. Especially seeing Drafthouse owner Tim League square off against director Uwe Boll. I'm just sad that Tim didn't actually break his jaw, especially since he was wearing an "And the Oscar Goes To ... Uwe Boll" t-shirt. That's just a bit too much. I recorded audio from all of the debates, and you can give them a listen or download them in my post over on Cinematical. The Michael Bay one is fairly hilarious, and the independent film topic turned Tim League very passionate, and is well worth your time. He said we're in a golden age for indie films, and I sure hope that inspires filmmakers out there to write some great stories and pick up a camera. It's your turn in the spotlight.

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