Fantastic Fest: The Good, the Bad, and the Nacho

Fantastic Fest

It's Sunday afternoon and we feel like we got punched by a donkey. On a boat. Teeming with beered-up Aussies and Spaniards and Chiléans and Brits and, yes, more than a few Yanks and locals. We blame Fantastic Fest sponsor Foster's "It's Australian for Goddam My Head Hurts" Lager®. Which just serves to prove our theory: Fantastic Fest is has come into its own a mere four years since Harry Knowles, Tim McCanlies, Paul Alvarado Dykstra, and Alamo Drafthouse founder/overlord Tim League dared to dream it. And it's not even half over as we type this. Good on ya, mate.

Our Highlights Thus Far: There's good news for everyone who ever wished the Alamo would open up a permanent outdoor drive-in-esque location (other than the Rolling Roadshow, natch). During Friday's outdoor screening of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, League announced that the official fire lane which currently separates the Alamo South Lamar's front and rear parking areas will become, post-fest, a permanent outdoor venue, complete with -- presumably -- honest-to-goodness green-grass sod laid over the existing, butt-unfriendly blacktop. League has already set the plan in motion and met with representatives from the Austin Fire Department and City of Austin zoning officials, which means by this time next year you won't have to worry about getting gravel in your trousers because you forgot to bring a folding chair, or what that weird red stain on the pavement to your right is. Sweet.

Best Screenings Thus Far: Santiago, Chilé's Nicolas Lopez and his geek-epic Santos brought the packed house to near-tears of geeky joyfulness, and why not? Santos is nothing if not a crowd pleasing mix of comic book playfulness, endearingly epithetical dialogue ("Did he really come on your face?") that rivals anything Kevin Smith has ever penned, and a climactic battle for true love and the fate of the earth. As Santos himself (played with nerdy panache by Javier Gutiérrez) says, "It's a twee, epic, absurd song, like love when it's real." Viva!

We skipped out on the highly anticipated shorts program from Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes) -- it's screening again Mon., Sept. 22, 7 pm -- in favor of hitting the supremely psychopathic Belgian film Ex-Drummer, which is in our personal Fest Five Best and is unlike anything else screening this year. Its iron fisted mix of punk nihilism, experimental technical flourishes, and laugh 'til you weep 'til you scream character assassination is, well, flat-out fucking brilliant. An instant classic.

Slightly easier on the mind if not the eyes was Ji-Woon Kim's astonishingly vivid riff on the Spaghetti Western, The Good, the Bad, and the Weird. Kim previously helmed one of our favorite South Korean nightmares, A Tale of Two Sisters, a few years back, and while GBW is about as tonally distant from that film as possible, its pitch-perfect blend of Asian retro-western action, physical comedy, and impossibly supercool characters (we're talking to you, Lee Byung Hun) is a wonder to behold. This is a film that demands to be experienced in a festival setting, or, at the very least, in a theater, preferably with the best sound system money can buy. Takashi Miike has reason to be worried, re: his upcoming Sukiyaki Western Django, which looks to cover semi-similar territory.

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Fantastic Fest 2008, Alamo, Fantastic Fest

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