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Threading up the 2010 Fantastic Fest!

Let Me In - Opening Night of Fantastic 2010!
by Jason Whyte

My life changed in September, 2009. As a repeat attendee of the annual South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, I initially thought my once a year jaunt down to Austin was more than enough. I was wrong. Recommended by me to colleagues and die hard Austin movie buffs, Fantastic Fest is a 9 day celebration of the offbeat side of film. This is not to say that FF doesn’t screen big films, far from it…its annual selection of domestic and foreign films, from premieres like “Zombieland” to off-kilter foreign genre cinema, is highly regarded by film fans from all over the world. Austin is one of the great film cities on earth. Not only are the locals who live here passionate about cinema, but folks such as myself travel from all over the world to get 8 days of intense filmgoing and party time in a city already full of fun.

Fantastic Fest is, hands down, an incredible festival and one that attracts the most hardcore film fan out there. Not only is it a film festival, but one that involves the audience by throwing events, parties and social networking to further enhance the film festival “with all the boring parts cut out”, as their slogan proudly dictates. Last year’s edition was nothing short of sensational, and this year’s edition promises to be bigger, badder and nothing short of Badass.

The 2010 edition kicks off at the legendary Paramount theater on September 23rd with “Let Me In”, a remake of Tomas Alfredson’s stellar 2008 film which showed here (I saw it a few weeks later at the Vancouver International Film Festival, when Fantastic Fest was just a dream). What sets this apart from remakes is that the director is Matt Reeves, who wowed audiences in 2008 with “Cloverfield”, a movie which landed on my Top 10 that year. I have nothing but love and respect for that film, and am more than sure his followup feature will be made with care and love for cinema.

I am the most excited for Takeshi Kitano’s film “Outrage”. Kitano is famous for his pictures “|Zatoichi” and has directed one of my favorites, “Takeshis”. Also big screenings on the schedule include a preview screening of the “RED” (standing for Retired and Extremely Dangerous), adapted from the DC Comics novel and starring Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, a sexy gun toting Helen Mirren and finally ass-kicking Karl Urban, in attendance. Another big entry is “Red Hill” featuring Ryan Kwanten, who is scheduled to make an appearance. There’s also the DTV sequel “30 Days of Night: Dark Days” featuring director Ben Ketai and the lovely Kiele Sanchez and Diora Baird showing up for their screening. And if you were one of the lucky 200 to see “Serbian Film” at South By Southwest this year, you may want to chase down the insanity with “The Life and Death of a Porno Gang”, of which I will be in attendance at.

Fantastic Fest also hosts a smorgasbord of films catered to honoring the greatest in the genre experience. There is no shortage of films featuring gore, kung fu, sci-fi to go along with splashy premieres. And as is the case every year, Fantastic Fest holds a small handful of secret screenings; films that are not revealed to the audience until everyone is seated in the auditorium and the lights are about to go down. Last year’s Fantastic Fest featured films like “A Serious Man”, “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus” and “The Men Who Stare at Goats” and I wish I could know what is going to show this year. But that wouldn’t be fun, would it? There are also a few special presentations and short films packages to keep everyone busy for the eight days of the festival.

Closing the festival is a screening of Takashi Miike’s film “13 Assassins”. Fantastic Fest is no stranger to Miike’s work, with some of his films screening in festival past as well. And of course no Miike fan could forget the legendary “Kiri Kiri” sequence from his 2001 masterpiece “Audition”. As of this writing, Mr. Miike is not in plans to attend his screening, so I’m sure Alamo Drafthouse CEO and co-founder Tim League might have a few tricks up his sleeve to lure the master out to Austin.

As always, Fantasic Fest is more than just a mere film festival. You want a lifetime achievement award tribute to martial arts choreographer Yuen Woo Ping with a screening of his new film “True Legend”? They have it. How about another lifetime achievement award, this time to the inventor of the independent film, Roger Corman, complete with a double feature of an American international doc along with the wonderfully titled B-flick “Sharktopus”? Done. Or could you handle a sneak preview of the prison drama “Stone” with Edward Norton stopping by to say hi? That’s fantastic!

And it doesn’t stop there. The Fantasic Debates, a debate match that involves boxing in an actual ring, featured Uwe Boll, Cinematical editor Scott Weinberg, former CHUD scribe Devin Faraci and Yahoo’s Brad McHargue last year. This year Scott and Brad are back, along with recently booked Michelle Rodriguez (“Avatar”, “Girlfight”) who reportedly is going toe to toe with Tim League this year. I would have no problem having my butt kicked by Ms. Girlfight herself, I’m just saying she’s hot, you see.
And you think I’m done? Think again. The Fantastic Feud featuring my friend Scott Weinberg where your knowledge of horror cinema is put to the test. And you can take part in a Norwegian Viking boat party towards the end of the festival to pimp the Norwegian section of the fest this year. Parties left right and centre, including Nerdeoke and MC Frontalot and the closing night party at an offsite location this year. The 100 Kills party, involving a whole lot of the best death sequences represented on film.

In short, Fantastic Fest is upon us again this year, and it is an exciting lineup, the best social event of the year and an event that should not be missed by any film fan. It’s an event I am proud to support with my coverage. If you’re in Austin and attending Fantastic Fest, I sure hope to meet you at the festival. Please stop by and say hi. Oh, and make sure you put your schedule together, and always have a B-plan!

For those of you who are in Austin but don’t have a badge, consider checking out a few special presentation movies at the 1,200 seat Paramount, with many tickets still available as of this writing. I must warn you, these are gateway screenings. It will make you want to secure a VIP or Film Badge for Fantastic Fest 2011, of which are going on sale soon.

For more information on Fantastic Fest, its films, point your browser to You can follow me at @jasonwhyte for live updates when available!

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originally posted: 09/24/10 00:22:52
last updated: 09/24/10 00:24:35
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