Hey folks, Harry here... So Day 1 of Fantastic Fest 2012 was, for me, a fairly mainstream affair... if by mainstream you're talking about a Black & White feature length stop motion animated feature and an unrelentingly triumphant badass bit of Independent British Sci-Fi Comic 2000 AD wow... But yes, today was all about FRANKENWEENIE and DREDD 3D for me.
I actually saw the films on Wednesday, because I had to do interviews with Tim Burton and Karl Urban for my AINT IT COOL WITH (me) show... (look for that in about 3 episodes.) I wasn't happy about that, because I already had tickets in place to see the films on Thursday's debut day of FANTASTIC FEST - and I would always prefer to see these kinds of movies with fans, rather than a room of critics. Critics seem to watch films with a distance between themselves and the emphatic bond that movie fans have with movies. Give me Fan screenings all day long. People that get high off of just being in a theater with like-minded movie obsessives. It really doesn't get better - and that's the crowd for Fantastic Fest.
As much as I loved FRANKENWEENIE and DREDD 3D on Wednesday, today's screenings... well, they're THE screenings for me.
The interviews with Burton and Urban went great, both were absolutely game for the hijinks that "The Magic Basement" tends to bring out - but after seeing the two films the day before... I was high as a kite on DREDD 3D. FRANKENWEENIE was wonderful, but that first time I saw it, I was running on 4 days in a row of 3 hours of sleep a night. I didn't fall asleep during the movie on that premiere showing, but my energy was low.
Today, kicking off the Fest at 6pm... with Tim League in a Tuxedo... Oh - I was totally in my Ginger Frankenstein makeup with a bolt going through my neck... Yoko had her hair up with a Bride of Frankenstein streak in it... and the Drafthouse had a ton of doggies that were having their own special screening of FRANKENWEENIE. It was a cartoonish affair, but just knowing we were seeing the film with Tim Burton, Winona Ryder and Martin Landau... well that was just a deterrent to global warming it was so fucking cool.
If you've been reading AICN for the 16 years I've been writing here, you are well aware of my fetish for Stop Motion animated films and effects. It is, frankly, my favorite film process. Watching a feature length black & white 3D film made entirely through stop-motion... well... so happy. I still love PARANORMAN most out of this year's stop-motion features... but Martin Landau's Science teacher - His science teacher is just stunning - and if you loved Landau's "PULL THE STRINGS" monologue... his speech to the city's citizens... well it might be my favorite monologue ever by Landau. There's something so glorious to his Science Teacher - I don't know about y'all... but in the past decade and a half, there's been a bizarre political war against the very notion of science and education in this country - and it is Landau's teacher that kind of gives the same level of wow that Peter Finch's Howard Beale gave us, when he was finally mad as hell and wasn't gonna take it any more. There's something amazing about seeing a 12" toy passionately assault the dimwitted denyers of the scientific method and logic.
As society begins to darken the lanterns of learning with mythology, I worry about our world ever living up to the potential that we as a species have.
NOT THAT THAT IS THE MESSAGE of Frankenweenie, but it is the part of the film that I most strongly react to. The real story of Frankenweenie is a tale that Tim Burton has cobbled together from a life of experiences and observations about how children interact, the batshit awesome teachers that made us the people we are... and of course the wild science and artistry of burgeoning would-be Mad Scientists that we all were as kids. At least if you were a geek, that is.
The animation and 3D were beautiful, but I'd be wary of reading too many reviews, mainly due to the amount of gags that you shouldn't have spoiled for you.
In the Q&A afterwards, the highlight for me was his response to being asked about whether or not he admired or had met Vincent Price... Apparenly Vincent Price hung out a bit on the set of SPACE: 1999... and Landau absolutely regretted never having the opportunity to work with Price in any way, but talked quite fondly about him. Then, suddenly... Landau started talking about Lugosi & Karloff... Now, we all know Landau can do a killer Lugosi... BUT HOLY SHIT, his Karloff story... his voice... Tears poured out of me as that wonderful hug of a voice that Karloff had came out of Landau. For me, watching that... it was such a gift. I love it when folks that met people store a bit of that person's soul. An artist as talented as Landau giving that bit of his life to us tonight, it meant the world to me and is the experience of Fantastic Fest that most likely will be my highlight of the year.
After that, Yoko, Father Geek and I returned to the very same screen to watch DREDD 3D, which was hosted by Mondo's Mad Genius Justin... and in attendence was Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby and screenwriter/producer Alex Garland. Now the key reason I've been dying to see DREDD 3D was Alex Garland's involvement. Just the idea that the screenwriter behind 28 DAYS LATER... and NEVER LET ME GO had penned a JUDGE DREDD movie... Then, had a small enough budget that they could actually make exactly the film that should reintroduce Dredd to American audience with the propulsive power of a rail gun. This flick... OK - when I saw the film on Wednesday, it was at a tiny screen at a non-Alamo Drafthouse. The projection was a bit shit. The proximity to the screen and sound that just wasn't wow-worthy... but I came out of the theater beaming about the film.
When my parents divorced, Dad would send me Geek Care Packages... They'd be filled with modern comics, computer programs for games that I could program into my tape drive on my SuperPET, Hollywood Makeup supplies and in and amongst these kid treasures would be new issues of 2000AD and I ate it up. There was really nothing like it. When Stallone announced he was doing it, I was excited. In fact the Blu Ray is out - and man, that film scrapes the sewer for the sheer enormity of fecal matter that the film reeks of. People like to blame Deuce Bigelow for the suckage, but that film sucked on the page. The script and the decisions tonally on that film just plain blew. It came at the wrong point in Stallone's career - we was sliding into self-parody and we suffered loyally through it, and sure enough, Stallone came back swinging.
That said. Karl Urban's Judge Dredd... well, it is exactly what the doctor ordered. And Olivia Thirlby as Judge Anderson on her rookie test run as a Judge... well, when I realized they were doing a rookie story on Judge Anderson, I was concerned. It is an incredibly delicate balancing act to create a real great female action character that still feels feminine - and isn't a damsel in distress or such an incompetent that if she does turn it around, it just feels disingenuine. Nope. Alex Garland gets Judge Anderson, and Olivia plays her perfect. I don't get the feeling that she's scared of anything, but her own capacity to make the difference that she knows she's capable of. But when the butterflies fly away and she makes a turn in her character... to the exact awesome FUCKING A - Anderson... Well, I kinda wanted to squeal with joy. Judge Anderson is one of my all time favorite female comic characters and Olivia nailed her. Garland gives us a perfect introduction to her - and guaranteed, by the end of the film you're gonna just love the hell out of her. She rules.
Another level of badassery in DREDD 3D was the cinematography and the visual effects. I'm gonna lay a lion's share of that awesome cleanly upon the head of Anthony Dod Mantle, the DP on films like SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, 28 DAYS LATER, ANTICHRIST, MANDERLAY, 127 HOURS and now his first foray into 3D... DREDD 3D. The eye candy you have waiting for you is exquisite. The violence captured in a manner unlike anything we've seen. Genuinely shocking stuff. This is a film that when they decided - ok, let's do this 3D - they embraced it - and then developed things that are just jaw-dropping in 3D. This is HARD R - and god bless them for it.
Now, I know - I haven't mentioned Karl Urban, but really... It's ok, he just managed to out-Dredd the hell out of Stallone. Karl's DREDD is a Clint Eastwood raspy badass... Urban said the voice came from a description of Dredd's voice in the comics that described it perfectly... I can't quite remember the exact line, so I won't butcher it... but it is a good ol Bourboun & Honey voice. A voice that feels like a fist exploding your nose.
Watching the film for a second time today, as it began to wrap up I found myself upset. I want to watch this film on repeat. I just would like to just watch this film for the next couple of weeks. It's so exactly what I was hoping this would be - a smart dead-to-rights initial Judge Dredd outting - and if you folks make this film a wild and unexpected super success... We'll get the Scorched Earth roadtrip to Mega City 2.... and if that's successful, Judge Death & crew are coming to close out the trilogy. With Garland writing, with Urban and Thirlby aboard as Dredd & Anderson... I'm a believer.
And Yoko, who had zero knowledge of Dredd as a comic or as a Stallone film, flipped out for this. This is the sort of awesome that you only ever got out of 2000 AD - it isn't a huge film, but this is that perfect story that introduces you to enough of the world of Judge Dredd, the concept of the Hall of Justice, the characters of Dredd & Anderson - and at the end... all I want is more. Now.
Tomorrow I'm finally getting to see Massawyrm's SINISTER - so I'm told I should shit before the movie, because it will scare the shit out of me, according to Massa. Moriarty liked the film, so I'm confident it must be amazing.
The best part of FANTASTIC FEST though - beyond the movies - it's just the attendees. The folks that travel from the distant latitudes and longitudes... that speak English barely... The conversations and the general since of cinematic brotherhood... well, as Tim League's partner on this festival - I realize - we've done it just right. Ok, I've got to get the Frankenstein off my face and hit the sack... More tomorrow!