It's been an amazing week, one I really didn't want to see end. Although I covered South By Southwest earlier this year, I'd never really covered a film festival before like Fantastic Fest. And I have to tell you, I started off strong, but the last two or so days, I whimpered out. I was not at full Nordling strength by the end of it, and sadly life intervened so I missed the last two nights of the festival, including the closing night film, COMIC-CON: EPISODE IV _ A FAN'S HOPE and the second secret screening of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3. But I saw some amazing films this year, and although this is a top five, don't think that a film that I saw that didn't make the list wasn't awesome in its way.
Apparently this film is a spinoff of a Danish television series about two guys who get into all sorts of crazy situations with much humor and apparently a lot of sex. The film doesn't hold anything back in its search for laughs, and if this ever gets released in the States I'd be very surprised. Basically it's about two friends who go on their annual canoe trip of getting high and having sex with prostitutes, but one of them brings a 12 year old boy along to prove to everyone, including himself, that he can be a good father. What follows is humor of a most inappropriate nature, and it's also quite heartwarming. Plus it features the most deadpan finger-to-ass scene in film history. I'm not quite sure some of the scenes shot in the film would actually be legal here in America. If you get the oppotunity, and you have an open mind, I think you might find that KLOVN is quite a good film. But it sure as hell ain't for everyone.
4. ELITE SQUAD: THE ENEMY WITHIN
A truly terrific political thriller, set in the streets of Rio de Janeiro, but while a film like CITY OF GOD concentrates on the world of the streets, THE ENEMY WITHIN, much like THE WIRE, concentrates on the puppeteers who hold the strings. Featuring a masterful performance by Wagner Moura as the head of wiretapping in a city gone corrupt, his ideals are tested when he discovers just how deep the corruption goes and soon it affects even his closest family. Jose Padilha has crafted a film on the level of some of the best Scorsese or Coppola films and I assure you, ROBOCOP is in very good hands. THE ENEMY WITHIN will open in New York and Los Angeles in November with a tiered release to follow, and it is Brazil's official submission to the Oscars for Foreign Language Film. It deserves it. Tremendous work.
3. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
A stunning film about parenthood and what a mother goes through when her child is irredeemably evil. Tilda Swinton gives the performance of the year as Eve, who comes to understand that there is something intrinsically wrong with her son Kevin (Ezra Miller, who is amazing), and as events escalate through the film, her life is completely destroyed. I found it especially rough, as a parent, because while her choice in the end may not make much sense to people who don't have children, to those of us who do, it is the only possible choice. Devastating and powerful, do not miss it when Lynne Ramsay's film opens wide this fall. Some people questioned this film even playing at Fantastic Fest, but I think it was totally appropriate. This is a festival that premiered THERE WILL BE BLOOD after all, and this portrait of a human monster fits right in, in my opinion.
2. JUAN OF THE DEAD
With any luck, you'll know this name soon: Alejandro Brugués. He was all over Fantastic Fest this year, almost as much as our beloved Nacho Vigalondo. My Fantastic Fest wasn't complete until Nacho whispered in my ear, "All is love here at Fantastic Fest. It is all love." When I first met Alejandro, Moises Chiullan introduced me to him, and I stuck out my hand for him to shake it, but Alejandro was having none of it. "We are brothers! Brothers hug!" But when I saw his film the second day of the fest, I was stunned by how good it was. A zombie film set in Cuba, JUAN OF THE DEAD is fun and exciting in the way that all great movies deliver, and although people may dismiss it as hype coming from the festival, I found JUAN to be utterly entertaining and satisfying. It's not some small indie zombie movie either - JUAN has scale, and great imagery - the zombie march on the bottom of the ocean was impressive - and plays it big and broad and doesn't hold anything back. I don't want to live in a world that doesn't give JUAN OF THE DEAD wide distribution. You have no idea - JUAN OF THE DEAD could very well be a huge hit if it gets picked up in the States.
1. A BOY AND HIS SAMURAI
Yoshihiro Nakamura's films that have played Fantastic Fest previously, FISH STORY and GOLDEN SLUMBER, won the hearts of everyone who saw them. A BOY AND HIS SAMURAI is no different in that aspect, but unlike those other two (or so I'm told, I've not seen them... yet) it's very accessible to pretty much a universal audience. Anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of historical and modern-day Japan will be able to follow the story of a samurai transported to present-day Tokyo, and his bonding with a young boy and his harried, overworked mother. And somehow in there Nakamura made a foodie film that will have anyone with any kind of sweet tooth salivating at the beautiful cakes and desserts on display. A genuine family film for all ages, A BOY AND HIS SAMURAI will have you cheering, laughing, and crying, often at the same time. The world that Nakamura makes in his films is a world free of cynicism, and it's a place I want to live in every day.
And I didn't even talk about Michael Shannon's quietly devastating performance in TAKE SHELTER, the awesome Korean superhero film that is HAUNTERS, or the French "DIE HARD in a nightclub" SLEEPLESS NIGHT, or the undeniable crowd experience of HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2, or the gritty crime film from South Korea THE YELLOW SEA, with more knifework than a Ginzu commercial, or Nacho Vigalondo's charming romantic comedy/alien invasion hybrid EXTRATERRESTRIAL, or Rick Baker bringing AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, or the amazing secret screening that I would have put on this list were I not embargoed - I'll just say that Fantastic Fest is the perfect venue for that particular film. It was an amazing year, and I'll surely be back for the whole enchilada next year if I can swing it. I miss the many friends and collegues already from Fantastic Fest 2011, and it's going to be a long year in between.