from Devin: Thanks to Travis, a volunteer at this year’s Fantastic Fest, for taking some time to write up what he’s seen. Many films at Fantastic Fest don’t get wider releases, which means I won’t be seeing them at press screenings, so it’s great to have an early word on some interesting and weird movies.

Fantastic Fest 2006 has lived up to its namesake so for the second year in a row. As a volunteer, I’ve found myself somewhere between the shit end of the stick and the silver tip of the spoon. Don’t get me wrong; the Alamo staff has been nothing but gracious, sincere and all carry with them an infectious enthusiasm for cinema that could remove the stick from the snootiest critic’s ass, but the last thing I want to do before catching a glimpse of Jordana Brewster is wipe Tim League’s ass. Ugh, that dimpled pimply ass.

Jokes! All jokes!! (He uses a bidet made from old projection sets.) To be honest, I’ve never seen anyone more jazzed about films then this guy. When he’s not introducing films or running around at the beckon of anyone with a walkie-talkie; he can be seen quietly enjoying the scene leaning on the wall in between theatres. Just to see what light the staff sheds on the guy, "I love Tim. He’s the biggest kid here." And she’s right… I’ve seen his red shoes.

On to the movies:

The week began with a sick, but thoroughly enjoyed, pop in the ass when I sat down for Larry Kent’s The Hamster Cage, a morbid comedy revolving around a family get together to celebrate our elder protagonist Phil’s recent Pulitzer Prize. At the party we have Phil’s wife Jenn, their two children Lucy (a writer who recently won an award for her literary prowess) and Paul (a PhD in literature but is struggling to get his tenure). Phil’s older brother Stan and his twenty-three year old lover, the proclaimed ‘sparkplug to my loins’ appropriately named Candy. If the words pedophilia or incest disinterest you; go ahead and run to StarPlex for the midnight showing of Grid Iron Gang.

Although I’m completely unfamiliar with Larry Kent’s dossier (apparently he’s a Canadian Gus Van Sant), I felt like the strength in this film came from its jarring turn from average family to a fucked up dinner party. Whether its the soothing usage of light blues or the simple purring of mother and son when they hug, I immediately felt that this family was strong. This family has values and although they had their faults, at least its foundation was love. I don’t want to ruin a single plot thread of this one (its best knowing as little as possible) but if you think getting adulterous mouth sex while spurting off theories of chaos and family interaction is something that tickles your sack, you’ve found your film.

Kent is a real talent and I found it odd that he appeared to be almost seventy during his Q&A (according to IMDB, he fell asleep during the last day of filming). After the film I talked myself into telling him I enjoyed his film only to be responded to in warmth. Not only was he kind to me out of courtesy but he made time for conversation every time he saw me; just a great guy with a wicked sense of humor. And trust me, the humor is not AWOL in Hamster Cage. Whether its an exchange between a pedophile and his victim while she’s on the can or burial gone awry…Kent delivers. What amazed me was my uncontrollable laughter over issues that are about as funny as the holocaust. Perversion or brilliance, tomato, Tomahto; I had a blast for ninety minutes.

The next film was Andrew Parkinson’s unusually poignant Venus Drowning. Spoilers are in our midst so mind your feet.

The film’s plot was a lot like Hilary Swank; you’re seduced or sickened, no gray area here. Dawn has recently lost her boyfriend of three years and their baby (miscarriage) all in a matter of three weeks. After her corporate therapist (sniff… sniff… is that a metaphor??) tells her to take some time away from London to a place that carries only fond memories. Of course, this takes her to a seaside village where she spent her childhood but where the film takes an unusual turn is when she discovers a mermaid fetus. Yikes! And not only does this fetus produce hallucinogenic slime, but to keep the slime abundantly oozing somebody has to be bumping fuzzies upstairs.

And that’s where the genius in the film lies, because although there is a twenty second scene of Dawn tonguing a slimy fetus, I really felt for her. Earlier when she is downing a donkey of Guinness and listening to the last messages from her boyfriend, there is a genuine sadness. Then later when a friend/guest for the weekend sleeps with the new man in her life its heart breaking and I thought to myself, if sucking on a mermaid fuck trophy will bring her a little sanity (which it apparently does) then go for it. Who am I to judge, I like ice in my drink and butter in my ass. That’s just me, those are my jollies, and Mr. Parkinson knows how to deliver what a Fantastic Fest audience crazes; cutting violence, a great set of tits, and a slimy unborn mermaid baby. Mmmmmmmm.

What’s next…

Blood Tea and Red String. Wow, by far the most challenging film of the festival so far. This stop-motion film is the thirteen-year-old love child of Christiane Cegavske. Judging by the response cards that I’m probably not supposed to read, the audience was split right down the middle. But unlike our nation’s opinion on the price of oil, you could support both schools of thought.

The film is a fairy tale about… fuck, I’m not real sure. In this mind job of a film there are hawks (that don’t fly but rather stand on both legs) that sound like canaries and mice that play cards with no faces. Somewhere along the line, the hawks trip out on some psychedelic lemons found in some wizard frog’s garden while aristocratic mice and their big doll get sauced up on blood tea. I heard someone argue that the mice represent the rich and the hawks were the poor, but I disagree. I think Ms. Cegavske wanted to spin a simple yarn about woodland creatures. The evidence is in the details.

The atmosphere is painted sweetly with a child like score of recorders and guitars and what be said other than I dug it. I admit that while I may not have been a Redwall (a series on gloriously child-ish books based on a kingdom solely occupied by talking creatures of the forest) aficionado, I did enjoy plenty of stories about Mattemeo and Mathias’ journey to find Martin the warrior’s sword (who happened to be a fat mouse.) Why mention this? Beside the fact I’ve given up on sex with anyone besides myself, I just like the simplicity of animals being humans. Maybe its the kid in me or maybe its the THC in me but it warmed my balls and that’s a lot more than I can say about, well, a lot of things.

But be pre-warned, there is no dialogue. The animals interact with each other in their own native sounds but I felt that it added to the film. This was one of those films that is pure expression and legitimate art. I can’t speak highly enough about this 13-year-old project and if you disagree with its craftsmanship, I see no foundation for that bullshit. At one part of the film, the hawks are playing a game with strings and each finger inter-mingles with the next in a scene that must have taken months to film. In another scene, there is a close-up of a creature actually playing real chords on a guitar. It’s this attention to detail that I couldn’t right this one off, and those are only two scenes of many with such vision and scope. Even the use of camera angles praises Ms. Cegavske’s skill. This film that could give both Terrance Malick and Walt Disney a hard-on. Put that on the DVD case.

That’s all I have for now, tomorrow I’ll be catching the French CGI film Renaissance and much more.