It Came From Barton Springs!

CEOs will tell you that when your corporation is running roughshod over a city’s delicate ecosystem, the best way to endear it to skeptical residents is to attach its name to as many local charities and cultural events as possible. Win their hearts and minds (the theory goes) and you can pretty much have your way with their drinking water and native-animal population.

After all, money is money, and most groups don’t care where money comes from so long as it comes. Take Advanced Micro Devices, the microprocessor-manufacturing giant that’s currently building a controversial 870,000-square-foot office park over Austin’s environmentally sensitive Barton Creek Watershed. To ensure their good name during the building process, AMD years ago enacted a clever policy of underwriting everything in Austin: concerts, environmental charities, libraries, hospitals, pie-eating contests, lemonade stands, junior-high-school debate teams, even the occasional newborn baby. This past month alone they sponsored two of Austin’s most beloved arts & entertainment events: Fantastic Fest, a film festival that tortures audiences with a week of ghoulish violence, gore, and emotional sadism; and the Austin City Limits festival, which tortures them with three days of live rock music.

I was fascinated by this whole corporate-art-sponsorship scheme, so last week I went and took in a few Fantastic Fest screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse South.

No, sorry, that’s a lie. Last week I went and tried to take in a few Fantastic Fest screenings at the Alamo Drafthouse.

Well, that’s not entirely true, either.

Last week I drove down to the Alamo Drafthouse with every intention of taking in a few Fantastic Fest screenings but decided against it after realizing I was too afraid to watch the movies I had gone there to see.

Call me crazy, but I can’t watch movies about torture and evisceration and ultra-violent anti-social behavior. I was in a video store a couple of months ago, and the guys behind the counter were watching one of those new torture movies where a woman gets her fingers chopped off or has her eyes plucked out or receives a really bad Indian rope burn, and I was horrified. What the hell is this? I asked myself. And who in god’s name would want to watch it? Recoiling in fear, I grabbed my copy of The Notebook and ran for the door.

I couldn’t sleep for a week after that. Now here it was, about to happen again. Only this time it was a whole festival’s worth of sleeplessness, adding up to months of exhaustion.

So, I didn’t go in. But that didn’t stop hundreds of others from going in my place, true grindhouse fans who consume violence and gore and general hideousness without consequence and whose blood-addled brains have therefore become inured to the terrifying possibilities of real life. Which makes me think that sponsoring the Fantastic Fest is a can’t-lose arrangement for AMD. One, their name is associated with one of the hippest festivals in Austin. And two, people who attend the festival will be far too enraptured with the thought of roving gangs of zombie religious fanatics slicing up pregnant women on the subway like birthday cake to worry about minor nuisances like discolored drinking water, mutated wildlife, pernicious bacteria, and chemically enhanced flora.

And so far the plan is working, so much so that some titles from next year’s lineup, once again sponsored by AMD, have already been announced. Highlights include: Mmmm! I’m Delicious, Mr. President, in which an overweight man has to eat himself in order to escape the diabolical contraptions of a sociopath wearing a Chester Alan Arthur mask; Kokiburi Kawaii, Ne!, a Japanese thriller about a stone-faced Yakuza gangster who goes on a brutal killing spree when he can’t find his car keys … until he remembers he doesn’t own a car; and Abattoir 2: Skinned Alive, about a young girl and her friendship with a lovable animated squirrel, with songs by Randy Newman.

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Fantastic Fest, AMD

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